A Game Plan For High Wheat Yields
For years, Jesse Green has set a goal of 100-bushel-per-acre wheat.
In 2018, the Wellston, Oklahoma, hard red winter wheat grower finally achieved it, growing 112.69 bushels per acre to claim the top yield in Oklahoma in the National Wheat Foundation’s National Wheat Yield Contest. Green earned second place in the national dryland wheat winter wheat portion of the 2018 contest.
Triple-digit wheat yields are a function of timing, weather, and pushing the crop as hard as you would corn or soybeans, Green says.
“I know a lot of people downgrade wheat because of price instead of going ahead and taking care of it. They think they’ll spend all their time and effort in a row crop, rather than just taking care of their wheat,” he says.
Good Seed to Start
On his contest field, Green planted certified Westbred 4303, a hard red winter wheat variety adapted for Oklahoma into the Texas Panhandle. It was treated with Gaucho 600 and EverSol seed treatments. “The great thing about 4303 is that you can push it. If you want a wheat that handles under intense management, it’s a go-to,” Green says.
He plants thicker than most farmers, aiming for 1.8 million seeds per acre, where 1.2 million seeds may be the norm. Planting later and thicker promises more main stems and primary tillers and fewer secondary plant tillers that can slough off as the season gets longer. “I saw that it paid two years ago, and I continued on with it,” he says.
Green uses a Great Plains grain drill with 7½-inch spacing.
The 2018 contest field was planted behind alfalfa. He normally plants wheat behind corn, but for the 2019 season, he says his best-looking wheat is behind soybean harvest.
Green takes random soil sample cores in fields going to wheat, applying nutrients while aiming for 100-bushel-per-acre wheat.
“In years past, I have bumped up my nitrogen all the way to 200 units. All I do then is cut a bunch of lodged wheat, so I’ve split my applications out, tried to hit it at the right time, and used smaller amounts to really get the maximum benefit each time,” he explains. “That 130- to 140-unit mark is just what has been working for me.”
For the 2018 crop, he made four nitrogen applications:
- In the row at planting, 15-gallons of 10-34-0.
- After planting but before winter, 10 gallons of 28-0-0 urea plus 5 units of sulfur, applied during a herbicide pass.
- About a month prior to wheat breaking dormancy in the spring.
- A final pass about mid-March.
During that first nitrogen application in the new year, he added 40 units of liquid potash plus a few gallons of 10% calcium. The calcium helps remediate lower pH soils. In Green’s area of east-central Oklahoma, pH is around 5.8 to 6.0.
“I want my pH at 6.5, but where I can’t get in and correct pH, I normally run calcium,” he says.
Green also adds two passes of fungicide, including generic tebuconazole at 90% flag leaf and Prosaro at flowering. Both are applied with a ground machine equipped with guidance system.
Manage for Yield
Pushing wheat yields requires testing new products and new concepts on a few acres each year.
“I try a bunch of different things on a few different spots to see what will work for the next year. I mean, if I try something on 10 acres and it works really well, then it’s probably worth looking into on the rest of my acres,” he says.
Farmers seeking 100-bushel-wheat yields also need to be prepared to spend a little more money, he adds. “If you’re going to try to start cutting corners, you’re never going to get there.”