Dusting in Wheat

Let me start by saying that I would not do try it. I Actually already did and it died!

Middle Georgia is under the worst drought conditions that many have ever seen. This would say that this is coming at a bad time, but it has been here for quite some time. This drought significantly impacted our warm season agronomic crops, fruits, vegetables and nuts as well as forages, landscapes, timber and wildlife. The conditions are also putting an almost complete halt on planting wheat or other small grains.

The optimum planting window for our area is either one week before or one week after November 17th (our average first frost date). Well, that came and went last week. As we move away from that planting window we begin to gradually lose yield potential. If you wait just two weeks you can easily lose 10 bushels, and easily 20 if you can’t plant until the end of December.

The first thing to consider is what the long-term forecast says. If we get seed planted and we do get rain it will have to be sustained moisture because there is no subsoil moisture for the emerging roots to find. The following is some helpful hints that I gathered from some midwestern states that must face this situation often.

If the dry weather is going to continue, and it appears it will, we should treat the fields like we are planting beyond the optimum plant date. It may be beneficial to up seeding rates and if add a seed treatment fungicide. Starter fertilizers would also be a good idea if prices were better, but I can’t tell anyone to fertilize a crop that may not emerge. The higher seeding rate is to account for reduced tiller production and the seed treatment should help that seed wait on a rain for a longer period of time.

Like I said earlier if we get some small showers it could cause seed to germinate but be unable to reach subsoil water resulting in plant death. Rain just after dusting in a crop can also cause crusting which will keep wheat from breaking the soil surface.

In a normally “dusting in” situation you would plant the seed a little shallower (1/2”) however with the lack of subsoil moisture you will want to go deeper (at least 1- 2”) .   Getting the seed to the proper depth will be a challenge in extremely dry soils, so spend a little extra time setting your planter up.

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