You are here

Applying Nitrogen to Wheat Can Be a Tough Decision This Time of Year

Applying Nitrogen (N) to wheat can be a tough decision this time of year. Many of us have no intention of scouting fields in this weather, but a quick look at your wheat fields can help make some decisions on N rate and timing.

Understand how to growth stage wheat. 
We had a late planting and a cold, wet October has delayed development.

- Most late planted fields are showing a main stem to one tiller.

- Even early planted wheat is behind normal.

- The cold weather with no snow cover could lead to some plant loss (especially if plants are laying on top of the ground). Most fields I have looked at are OK, but we won’t know for sure until green-up.

- Our goal should be 60 to 70 harvestable heads / ft2

Achieving Optimum Number of Harvestable Heads
- Farmers will need to be aggressive with early N applications to achieve optimum number of harvestable heads.

- In order to achieve maximum yield potential, it is probably going to require additional N to make up limited fall growth.

- Reference for N applications.

- In general, I would recommend that farmers with less than 3 tillers/plant use 50 lbs. of N to encourage additional tiller growth.

- Late planted fields that only have a single stem should receive 60 lbs. of N.

- Note that using an aggressive rate this early in the season may leave a grower subject to some N loss later in the spring. It is likely that a minimum of another 50 to 60 lbs. of N will be need at the second application at Feekes 5.

- If applying 50 lbs. or more at Feekes 3 add a nitrification inhibitor such as Agrotain Plus or Nutrisphere to help protect your N investment for loss later in the season.
Many fields are currently saturated.

- This will require hard freezes to allow equipment to get over many fields this year.

- Normally I would suggest delaying applications until mid to late February, but don’t be afraid to take advantage of frozen ground this year. Especially if fields are saturated. The window to get across the field may be small due to the wet conditions.

If you have to look at a one pass N program, make sure you are using a nitrification inhibitor. We have also seen good results from adding Sulfur with your N application. This can be done by using Ammonium Sulfate as an N source or adding sulfur with your liquid N.  

I have looked at very few fields that I would consider thin enough to be abandon. An aggressive N program will help most late planted wheat achieve maximum yield!

For more information or to see the entire article, visit the Beck’s Agronomy page.

Read more about