Illinois Small Grains: 6 Tips for Planting in an Odd Field Season

Wheat planter in field. Photo: Kansas State University

Soon many producers will be starting to plant small grains.  Below is my “Top six” list of important things to consider when planting wheat and other small grains in the coming weeks.

1. Ensure that you remove green bridges at least 10 days prior to planting.

This season, prevent plant acres may have favored the development of grassy weeds and other potential hosts of aphids that transmit barley yellow dwarf (BYDV) virus in small grains. Aphids acquire BYDV upon feeding, and then can transmit it to susceptible hosts.  This group of viruses has a wide host range, and many grassy weeds, in addition to volunteer small grains, serve as a means for this virus to persist during the summer.

When aphids such as the Bird Cherry Oat aphid (and some others that feed on wheat)feed on these grassy hosts and a fresh field of wheat or barley is planted nearby, they can move into these fields and begin to transmit the virus early in the growing season. Fall infections of BYDV in wheat and barley result in the greatest  potential yield loss in the following season.

To minimize BYDV, ensure that any weeds are killed 10 days prior to planting. In addition, other obligate pathogens that require a living host to survive the winter, such as stripe rust, can be maintained on volunteer wheat and native grasses during the summer. This is another reason to ensure to ensure weeds are burned down prior to planting.

2. Plant after the Hessian fly free date.

Some think this insect is a myth, but it can appear on occasion.  However, planting after this date is one way to minimize the window of opportunity for diseases such as the aphid transmitted BYDV, stripe rust, and powdery mildew to impact diseases early in fall growth and establishment.  The earlier infections occur, the more likely you will see yield losses the following Spring.

3. Plant certified seed.

Several diseases can be transmitted on seed.  Minimize potential issues by purchasing high quality, disease free seed.

4. Ensure good soil to seed contact.

The faster your plants emerge from the ground, the less chance you will observe potential issues with seedling blights.

5. Plant after soybeans.

This season the potential opportunity to do this will be limited.  Fusarium graminearum, which causes Fusarium head blight (FHB), grows much less efficiently on soybean residue than corn residue.  Thus, planting behind soybeans can reduce the amount of local FHB inoculum in a field the following season.

6. Select varieties with the highest yield potential and best disease resistance packages for common yield limiting diseases.

Growers should focus on FHB resistance (click here for university ratings) then check leaf blotch ratings.  Other issues that are problematic for you on a local scale should also be considered.


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