Wheat Speak: Optimal Seeding Rates

Small measures now can mean big yield potential at harvest

You put careful thought into selecting the best wheat varieties for your farm and fields. But do you give equal consideration to identifying the ideal seeding rate to help your crop reach its full yield potential? In the latest episode of Wheat Speak with WestBred® Wheat, WestBred technical product managers and a Northern Plains agronomist share tips for optimizing your seeding rate. It’s a small thing you can do now to potentially make a big difference at harvest. 

Spring has finally arrived! For northern plains growers, that means it’s time to plant spring wheat. As a new season dawns, you may hear about the need to “optimize your seeding rates.” But do you know what this really means?

WestBred® technical product managers Grant Mehring and Trenton Stanger recently spoke with Joel Ransom, extension agronomist at North Dakota State University, about this very topic. Together, they offer clarification and a few tips for optimizing your seeding rate and maximizing your yield potential.

Expert Answers to Five of Your Biggest Seeding Rate Questions

 Q:       Planting’s right around the corner. What key things should spring wheat growers consider before they hit the fields?

A:         First, consider seeding based on the number of viable seeds, as opposed to pounds, per acre. Second, prep and plant early for the best chance for optimum yields. Finally, do your homework. You have lots of options, so once you’ve figured out what class you are going to plant, research the varieties that will do best in your area and on your operation based on your management processes and typical diseases.

Q:        When it comes to seeding rates, what’s the biggest mistake growers make?

A:         Wheat growers tend to plant a single seeding rate across many different varieties. You might instead consider the phenotypic differences that those varieties have, and vary your seeding rates. In other words, fine-tune each variety for where it should be. You don’t necessarily have to put in more seed than you have in the past. Also, be sure to ask your WestBred seed supplier for your ConnectIN™ Insight Sheet that lists your Optimal Seeding Rate so you can accurately calibrate your planting equipment so it’s optimal for the variety you’ve chosen.

Q:        Why is it a mistake to use the same seeding rate from year to year?

A:         Every year that you grow a variety you know a little more about it, so there’s opportunity to tweak your seeding rate up or down based on lodging, tillering and the yields you’ve seen. Have some fun with it! After all, you only get so many chances to grow a variety.

Q:        What other factors should growers consider when choosing seeding rates?

A:         One of the driving factors is the environment. For example, your water availability really affects your seeding rate. Your planting date is also important to consider. Know what varieties tend to lodge. If you are planting those varieties in higher-yielding environments, you might want to back off of your seeding rate a bit. For those that tiller well, you might even do better lowering your seeding rate as opposed to going over the top. You know how your varieties stand up, their lodging, their straw strength. You also know how your varieties fill the rows mid-season, so you can adjust your seeding rate to try to get the right number of heads out there to accurately fill the rows.

Q:        Spring’s been wet in many places. How should growers adjust seeding rates if they’ve had to delay planting?

A:         In the northern plains, you’ll often hear a rule of thumb about increasing your seeding rate 1 percent per day for every day you’re delayed beyond your optimum planting date. This is because, as you delay your wheat seeding, you need to plant more seed to accommodate the shorter growing season, which produces less tillers on the wheat plant. This won’t solve all your problems, though. You also need to take your variety into consideration, since some are more disease-prone when planted later. If you get a late start, you may want to consider a different variety.

For more information about Optimal Seeding Rates, or for help selecting the best varieties for your wheat operation, contact your WestBred seed supplier. 

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