Wheat Planting
Selecting the best variety and reducing seeding rate are two possibilities for lowering costs and improving yield potential.

Here’s how to cut wheat production costs and maximize yields

Seeding rate, variety selection are keys to managing production costs for wheat.

Given the landscape of producing wheat this year, and possibly in the foreseeable future, Texas wheat specialists are suggesting ways to help keep production costs down while maximizing yields through selecting varieties designed to reduce disease pressure.

Dr. Clark Neely, statewide small grains and oilseed extension specialist in College Station, Dr. Josh McGinty, regional extension agronomist in Corpus Christi, and Dr. Calvin Trostle, Extension agronomy, TAMU Soil & Crop Sciences in Lubbock, have teamed up to provide sound advice to help wheat producers improve chances of a profitable crop.
In August, Farm Press published wheat variety recommendations posted by Trostle and Neely with intent of providing a list of the best variety choices for the new planting year, which is currently underway across much of Texas. With the low wheat prices reported at the markets this year, the hope was to help producers pick the best variety for the growing region in order to maximize their chances of turning a reasonable profit. Southwest Farm Press published a list of these recommended varieties of hard red winter wheat for the Rolling Plains, the Blacklands, and for South Texas, as well as spring and winter wheat picks for South Texas.

But an additional consideration for many Texas wheat producers, regardless where they farm, was made available this week concerning an individual variety’s resistance and susceptibility to several disease and insect pests expected this season and in years to come.

"Our observation is that Texas farmers are paying closer attention to several individual varietal traits in choosing wheat varieties.  These are primarily leaf rust, stripe rust, wheat streak mosaic virus, Hessian fly, and greenbugs," Trostle reported last week.

He says incorporating tolerant or resistant varieties into wheat production is part of a proven integrated pest management program.

"This has several potential benefits if a particular pest, stripe rust for example which has been common in the High Plains and beyond the past three years, in that good tolerance may make a fungicide application unnecessary, or perhaps you have a couple thousand acres of wheat which can’t be sprayed in a timely fashion when a fast-moving disease issue like strip rust occurs," he added.

Trostle and Neely agree that individual wheat varietal response to some of pests may not be known, especially greenbug and wheat streak mosaic virus, and to a lesser extent Hessian fly. 

"In our annual Texas A&M AgriLife statewide wheat variety trial report from the 2017 harvest, a table has been updated with our most recent pest ratings based on Texas ratings. That revised table is available to producers here. (http://bit.ly/2xrLnPr)

In addition, McGinty and Neely are advising growers that seeding rates may be one way to cut wheat costs this planting season.

"Finding ways to cut costs and not influence yield or returns will be important. One potential option is cutting back seeding rates," McGinty points out.

He says over the past two years, seeding rate treatments have been incorporated into variety trials across the Blacklands and South Texas regions. Trials were harvested at seven locations in 2017 and two locations in 2016 with yields ranging from 18 to 70 bushels across locations and treatments.

In the Blacklands, treatments ranged from 404,000 seeds per acre (30 pounds per acre) to 1.2 million seeds per acre (90 pounds) in 2016 and from 450,000 seeds per acre (33 pounds per acre) to 1.8 million seeds per acre (134 pounds per acre) in 2017. A significant yield response was only detected at Muenster, where the 450,000 treatment was significantly lower than all other rates. No other individual location produced significant differences among seeding rates. When averaged across locations, 405,000 reduced yield 13 percent in 2017. In 2016, no differences were detected and 741,000 was numerically the highest when averaged across both locations.

In South Texas, TAM 401 was evaluated in 2017 under different seeding rates at Uvalde and Wharton. Again, no differences were detected at either site.  A hard red spring wheat (HRSW), Expresso, was sown at five different rates from 500,000 through 1.5 million seeds per acre. At Castroville and Wharton, yield increased 11.4 bushels per acre (52 percent) on average from 500,000 to 750,000 before levelling off. At Uvalde, a strong and positive linear relationship occurred between yield and seeding rate. Yield increased 18 bushels per acre (26 percent) from 750, 000 to 1.8 million seeds per acre.

"Based on this information, producers planting winter wheat in the Blacklands or South Texas are not likely to see yield advantages above 750,000 seeds/a (roughly equivalent to 50 pounds per acre, depending on seed size) if planted on time. Assuming certified seed cost $37 a bushel and seed size is around 16,000 seed per pound, a producer could potentially generate $21 an acre in cost savings by reducing seeding rate from 1.3 million seed/a ( around 90 pounds per acre) to 750,000 seed per acre," the team reported this week.

However, the team noted certain varieties have different tillering abilities, and those with lower tillering capabilities may still benefit from higher seeding rates. WB Cedar is considered a high tillering variety.  Neely says producers should consider planting conditions as well when deciding on planting rates.


For full details about seeding rate trials and for additional information, visit: http://bit.ly/2ybes0E.

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