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Canadian wheat on a roll
Seventy-five-bushel spring wheat is way above average, but it's still a reasonable goal 150 miles north of Canada's Devil's Lake, according to Cornie Fehr.
“Five years back, I would have been happy with 50, 55, 60 bushels per acre. But I do my inputs different now, so I expect more,” the Canadian says.
Fehr plants his spring wheat near Arden, at the center of Manitoba's farming industry, where average red spring wheat has yielded about 45 bushels per acre since 2006.
Fehr grows 3,100 acres of hard red spring wheat in a tight two-year rotation with canola. He uses conventional tillage.
“If I get the right weather conditions (in 2012), I'm sure I could grow 65- to 75-bushel wheat,” he says.
Last year was almost hopelessly wet, but on the fields that didn't drown, Fehr estimates his yields came in at around 70 bushels per acre.
Back in 2009, the last season with good growing conditions, Fehr had whole fields of red spring wheat that yielded 80 bushels an acre and more.
It's a challenge, he says, to keep a +70-bushel wheat crop from lodging. Several years ago, he changed to a high-yielding shorter wheat with strong straw. It's better, but it still can lodge after a heavy rain.
Fehr has about eight steps in producing that kind of yield, but he believes the single biggest impact is coming from fungicides and micronutrient products.
He began using nutrition and disease-protection products on his wheat just a year or two before the 2009 record.
“I think the seed primer and the top dressing, and the way I fertilize with deep-banding the nitrogen and potash have had the biggest impacts on my wheat yields,” Fehr says. “I do a little top dressing with nutrients and fungicides.”
Fehr's field plan includes the following eight steps to achieve that 80-bushel-per-acre yield, using two air drills and a high-clearance sprayer, if conditions are right.
1. Deep-band nitrogen and potash with the first air drill in early spring.
2. Prevent seedling disease with a combination of fungicide and seed primer.
3. Burn off the weed population.
4. Apply treated seed with the second air drill along with phosphate and sulfur.
5. Top-dress the crop at about the four-leaf stage.
6. Apply fungicide at the early flag leaf stage.
7. Apply more fungicide at the early flowering stage.
8. Protect the yield and speed the drydown with desiccant shortly before harvest.
Assuming the crop is clean and the weather is cooperating, Fehr says even better yields are possible if scientists come up with genetics or chemistry to neutralize fusarium head blight (scab) in tomorrow's wheat.
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