Winter Wheat Yields in 2011 – It’s time to go for broke!

With most of the winter wheat planted on time last fall, or even a few days early, we have the yield potential to take advantage of more inputs. With wheat prices at record levels, and our inputs still at last year’s prices, it’s time to GO FOR BROKE!

Nitrogen – add 10 pounds to your normal application
Dr. Dave Hooker, University of Guelph, is currently working on a “Wheat Nitrogen Calculator”, similar to the corn nitrogen calculator. While it is not yet available for growers, when Dave runs through this year’s numbers using wheat at a 100 bu/ac yield potential, a $8.00/bu price, and urea at $550/tonne, the optimum N rate is 100 lbs per acre. Subtract 10 lbs/ac for 80 bushel yields, and add 15 for 120 bushel yields. For most growers, that equates to an additional 10 pounds over the normal N application. However, watch your standability on varieties with lodging concerns. Refer to the GoCereals website for variety information.

Early fungicides will pay!
Over the years, early fungicide application has returned 2 or 3 bushels in additional yield, just barely enough to cover the cost of the fungicide. With current wheat prices nearly double what they were a year ago and with fungicide prices a bit lower, suddenly you can easily double your money. Table 1 summarizes the yield advantage of Stratego in 6 Thames Valley Soil & Crop trials. With early wheat, the potential for lots of early disease, and a three or four bushel yield increase very possible, put that fungicide in the tank with the herbicide!

Table 1: 2007 Fungicide With Herbicide Winter Wheat Trials – 6 sites

YieldCheckStrategoYield Advantage
Bu/ac (tonnes/ha)77.8 (5.23)82.0 (5.51)+ 4.2 (+ 0.28)

Thames Valley Soil & Crop Improvement Association

Fusarium control will pay!
In the past, fusarium fungicides were a break-even proposition. The fusarium protection was like free insurance, but often you didn’t put many dollars in your pocket. Double wheat prices, and the story changes. Which product should you use? If the risk of fusarium is high, spray Proline. If the risk of fusarium is low, spray Folicur. Proline is much better on fusarium, Folicur is better on rust. Table 2, 3 and 4 summarize some winter wheat fungicide Soil & Crop trial data.

Table 2: Effect of Folicur on Winter Wheat Yield – Summary of 2003-2006 Trials

TrialsYield bu/ac (tonnes/ha)
Year# TrialsCheckFolicurDifference
20032793.8 (6.31)101.4 (6.82)+8.1 (+0.54)
20042983.0 (5.58)89.6 (6.03)+6.6 (+0.44)
20052385.4 (5.74)88.2 (5.93)+2.8 (+0.19)
20062499.7 (6.70)103.9 (6.99)+4.2 (+0.28)
Avg.03-0610390.3 (6.07)95.7 (6.44)+5.4 (+0.36)

Ontario Wheat Board, OMAFRA

Table 3: 2007 Trial Summary – Proline vs Folicur

# TrialsYield bu/ac (tonnes/ha)
685.2 (5.73)90.0 (6.05)93.2 (6.27)
988.5 (5.95)91.6 (6.16)

Oxford Soil & Crop Improvement Association

Table 4: 2007 Stratego Plus Fusarium Fungicide Trials

Trial Location# RepsYield bu/ac (tonnes/ha)
Melbourne 1461.0 (4.10)67.4 (4.53)
Melbourne 2390.3 (6.07)92.0 (6.19)
Bryanston2104.4 (7.02)104.9(7.05)
Parkhill595.0 (6.39)99.1 (6.66)109.6 (7.37)
Arva283.6 (5.62)86.8 (5.84)90.3 (6.07)
Average – 5 trials86.9 (5.84)90.0 (6.05)
Average – 2 trials90.9 (6.11)96.7 (6.50)

Middlesex Soil & Crop Improvement Association

Tramp loss
Wheat is worth a LOT! Tramp loss will cost you double what it used to. Use the absolute widest boom and most narrow tires on the sprayer that you can. Otherwise, you are simply throwing money away!

So all this is lots of fun. It is the first time in memory that I have been able to say Go Full Out! Next year is unlikely to be quite this good. We need more data to help make the decisions regarding what will pay as economics return to more normal levels. Leave two strips untreated. Weigh them off, and send me the data at harvest. That way, I can write another article next spring, and make you even more money!!