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E. Indiana and Ohio Good News - More Wheat Heads Produced Mean Higher Than Average Yield

Most growers in our area have harvested wheat this year and many were surprised by how good the yields were. With the colder than normal winter and warmer than normal temperatures during grain fill, why were the yields so good? Wheat yield is determined by the number of heads, the number of seeds per head, and the weight of those seeds. The main reason yields were above average is that more heads were produced (tillers) and more seeds per head. Let’s take a look at the wheat plant below (it is only 1 plant) to review what happens with wheat:

--- The main head is the tallest head in the picture below. As you can see, the main head is the largest of all the heads - the one with the most potential seed. This is the reason that populations should be pushed for wheat. The more main heads you have, the greater the yield potential.

--- The two heads to the left are the largest of the tillers and were more than likely formed in the fall of last year. Wheat heads formed in the fall are larger than the heads formed in the spring. Practices that promote fall tillering increase yields. These management practices include things such as planting early and good soil fertility (especially nitrogen and phosphorus).

--- The two heads to the right were more than likely formed this spring. They are smaller but can add bushels. Early spring nitrogen applications can promote more tillering in the spring and often will increase yields. This year we had more spring tillers make it, especially since most nitrogen applications were timely and wheat was delayed coming out of dormancy due to the colder than normal temperatures. This is what I believe made our yields above average.


Seed size was smaller this year due to the shortened grain filling period. The smaller seed size increased test weight. If the weather was actually cooler during grain fill we might have had some yields approaching 150 bu..A.

For more Agronomic News from Mark Apelt, M.S., Beck’s Certified Crop Advisor, please visit his Agronomy Page on

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