Wheat Management Considerations

Wheat Management Considerations

Wheat Maturity, Plant Date, and Hessian Fly Discussion

This past wheat growing season presented challenges including some hard freeze events and hessian fly infestations in certain areas. We wanted to take the time to examine a few ways growers can minimize risk and exposure to these environmental problems.

Maturity and Plant Date

There were mixed reports from different areas on what wheat varieties were performing well. The most notable difference amongst these varieties were maturity and/or planting date. Growers we can control the maturity of the wheat they plant as well as the planting date, but obviously can’t control the weather. Our suggestion would be to spread out risk over a multiple-week planting window (weather permitting), as well as planting varieties with multiple maturities. We recommend starting by planting a late maturity first, followed by a medium maturity, and ending with early maturity.

If a freeze event does occur, the variations in wheat maturity and planting date should minimize the risk of damage as the crop will be at slightly different growth stages.  Conversely, planting just one variety would subject the grower to no variation in how the freeze event affects the wheat. Below is a table from a study done by the University of Kentucky that looks at the symptoms and yield effect of freeze events on wheat at different growth stages and temperatures.

Hessian Fly

In preparation for wheat planting this fall, we also want to consider preparing for and managing hessian fly. While there is no silver bullet to avoid hessian fly, below is a list of key practices growers can follow to help reduce potential hessian fly pressure.

  • Avoid heavy rotation with wheat (especially susceptible varieties). This includes cover crop acres. Alternating to a non-susceptible species such as oats will decrease the opportunity for hessian fly generations to bridge and survive to infest wheat.
  • PLANT TREATED SEED. A good insecticide treatment should give 45-60 days of control for fall infestation. Spring infestations are difficult to control, due to the life cycle of the hessian fly.
  • Avoid extremely early planting dates for wheat for grain.
  • Plant varieties that rate well for hessian fly. See the table below for hessian fly rating results from the University of Georgia regarding AGSouth Genetics Wheat.

Although the table above is ranked by visual ratings, pay attention to infested stems and hessian fly/stem count. If choosing a wheat variety based solely on hessian fly, AGS 4023 would be the top choice based on this data table. AGS 2024 showed good visual rating, however, the hessian fly counts were much higher.

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