Planting into dry soil - three options to consider
By Dennis Pennington, MSU wheat specialist
Wheat seed should be planted into soils between 54 and 77 degrees F. Soil must have 35-45% water by weight (Evans, 1975) in order for the seed to imbibe enough water to germinate.
Currently in Michigan, we are seeing some abnormally dry conditions, with little or no rain forecast for the next 8-10 days. According to the September 25, 2017, Michigan Crop Weather Report published by the National Agriculture Statistics Service, reported topsoil and subsoil moisture conditions are 73 percent and 70 percent short or very short, respectively.
Option #1: Dust it in at the normal seeding rate and normal planting date - and hope for rain.
This is probably the best option. The seed will remain viable in the soil until it gets enough moisture.
Before planting, producers should look at the long-term forecast and try to estimate how long the dry conditions will persist. If it looks like there’s a good chance the dry weather will continue until at least the back end of the optimal range of planting dates, producers should treat the fields as if they were planting later than the optimum time.
Rather than cutting back on seeding rates and fertilizer to save money on a lost cause, producers should increase seeding rates, consider using a fungicide seed treatment, and consider using a starter fertilizer.
The idea is to make sure the wheat gets off to a good start and will have enough heads to have good yield potential, assuming it will eventually rain and the crop will emerge late. Wheat that emerges in November almost always has fewer fall tillers than wheat that emerges in September or October.
There are some risks to this option. For one thing, a hard rain could crust over the soil or wash soil off planting ridges and into the seed furrows, potentially causing emergence problems. Another factor is the potential for wind erosion.
Also, the wheat may not come up until spring, in which case it may have been better not to plant the wheat at all and plant a spring crop instead.
Probably the worst-case scenario for this option would be if a light rain occurs and the seed gets just enough moisture to germinate the seed but not enough for the seedlings to emerge through the soil or to survive very long if dry conditions return. This could result in loss of the stand.
Option #2: Plant deeper than normal into moisture now, if possible.
This option can work if the variety to be planted has a long coleoptile, the producer is using a hoe drill, and there is good moisture within reach.
The advantage of this option is that the crop should come up and make a stand during the optimum time in the fall. This would keep the soil from blowing. Also, the ridges created by hoe drills also help keep the soil from blowing.
The main risk of this option is poor emergence. Deep-planted wheat typically has below-normal emergence, so a higher seeding rate should be used. Any rain that occurs before the seedlings have emerged could add additional soil into the seed furrow, making it even harder for the coleoptile to reach the soil surface.
Any time you increase the seeding depth, the seedling will have to stay within the soil just that much longer before emerging through the soil surface.
Delayed emergence leads to more potential for disease and pest problems, and reduced tillering potential late in the season. It’s even possible that the wheat would get planted so deep that it would germinate but never emerge at all, especially if the coleoptile length is too short for the depth of planting.
Generally speaking, it’s best to plant no deeper than 3 inches with most varieties.
Option #3: Wait for a rain, and then plant.
To overcome the risk of crusting or stand failure, producers may decide to wait until it has rained and soil moisture conditions are adequate before planting. Under the right conditions, this would result in good stands, assuming the producer uses a high seeding rate and a starter fertilizer, if appropriate.
If it remains dry well past the optimal range of planting dates, the producer would then have the option of just keeping the wheat seed in the shed until next fall and planting a spring crop next year instead.
The risk of this option is that the weather may turn rainy and stay wet later this fall, preventing the producer from planting the wheat at all while those who “dusted” their wheat in will have a good stand. There is also the risk of leaving the soil unprotected from the wind through the winter until the spring crop is planted.
Crop insurance considerations and deadlines will play a role in these decisions.
Fact or fiction? There has been some talk about whether soil moisture can move upward in the soil as the weather gets cooler, and whether this alone might provide enough moisture in the soil surface for wheat to germinate.
While it’s true that a small amount of soil moisture will gradually migrate a bit toward cooler areas of the soil, there is no chance that enough moisture will move upward into the seed zone to germinate wheat simply because the temperature at the soil surface has cooled.
Where soils are dry, it will take rainfall for wheat to germinate and emerge.
Adapted by Dennis Pennington, Wheat Extension Specialist, Michigan State University from Jim Shroyer, Retired Extension Agronomy State Leader and Lloyd Stone, Retired Soil and Water Management, Kansas State University.
Evans, L.T., Wardlaw, I.F. & Fischer, R.A. 1975. Wheat. In L.T. Evans, ed. Crop physiology, p. 101-149. Cambridge, UK, Cambridge University Press.
Click here to see the September 11, 2017, Michigan Crop Weather Report from USDA National Agriculture Statistics Service.
College-bound ag students with a personal connection to the wheat industry and a planned career in agriculture, may wish to apply for the Jerry Minore Memorial Scholarship.
This month the National Wheat Foundation (NWF) began accepting applications for the scholarship from students with a personal connection to the wheat industry and who have planned a career in agriculture. Applications must be submitted by December 31, 2017.
Established in 2012, the Minore Scholarship has helped more than a dozen students continue their chosen course of agricultural study in college. The scholarship is available both to high school and college students who have demonstrated success in academics and leadership roles.
The scholarship is named in honor of Jerry Minore, a longtime friend and participant in the wheat industry. In his role as BASF senior market manager, Minore was a liaison to the wheat industry, including NWF and the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG). He died in 2012.
To honor Minore’s life and work, the Minore Memorial Scholarship will fund two $1,500 scholarships and two $1,000 scholarships for the 2018-2019 academic year. Click here for more information or to apply for a Minore scholarship.
Do you have a disagreement over an agricultural loan? Have you received an adverse determination from an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)? If so, you might consider mediation.
The Michigan Agricultural Mediation Program (MAMP) helps resolve disputes between farmers and USDA agencies and between farmers and their lenders or creditors.
The MAMP provides trained mediators to help the parties to a dispute communicate effectively about the issues and develop options for resolution. Mediation is designed to resolve disputes quickly and confidentially while saving the parties’ time, money and stress by avoiding hearings or litigation.
Eighty to 100 percent of cases mediated by the MAMP are resolved each year. If resolution is not reached, the parties can still request a USDA hearing or proceed to court.
There is no cost to the parties for using MAMP services.
The MAMP has been providing mediation services to the agricultural community since 1997. Congress originally established and funded agricultural mediation in response to the severe financial crisis of the early- to mid-1980s. In some cases, mediation has helped save the farm.
Michigan residents seeking mediation or wishing to learn more can call the MAMP at (616) 774-0121 or visit www.agmediation.org.
It’s that time again when farmers, agribusiness professionals and others involved in the agricultural industry have the opportunity to nominate the “best of the best” for the Master Farmer awards, presented in February.
For the 13th straight year Michigan Farmer magazine will present the Michigan Master Farmer awards to three outstanding producers.
Winners are chosen by a committee of agriculture industry leaders based on farm management, innovation, conservation, leadership and community involvement.
The award will be presented during an honorary luncheon, sponsored by Michigan Wheat Program, the Corn Marketing Program of Michigan and the Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee at the Great Lakes Crop Summit, February 1, at Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort, Mt. Pleasant. The 2017 award winners are pictured here. (Mr. and Mrs. Tim Brodbeck, David Williams, and Mr. and Mrs. Ken Wadsworth)
The award is named the same year that it’s given because it acknowledges a lifetime of achievement and not a single year.
Master Farmers receive a plaque from Michigan Farmer and a Carhartt jacket, donated by Carhartt. They also each receive a $1,000 check, made possible by sponsors Michigan Agricultural Commodities, GreenStone Farm Credit Services and Wilbur-Ellis.
All three farmers are featured in the March issue of Michigan Farmer magazine and tribute videos will be developed by Brownfield Ag News to be played during the awards luncheon.
Please nominate a Master Farmer by visiting www.MichiganFarmer.com for an application. Don’t delay, the deadline is December 1!