Things to consider when planting winter wheat

Farm Forum

Winter wheat occupies an important role in the South Dakota (SD) crop production system. The US Department of Ag. Predicted a total state production of about 1.2 million bushels for the 2013-14 growing season and we are now getting prepared to plant for next growing season. Winter wheat is grown when there is less farm activities providing a viable option for another cash crop in the cropping system. Things that we can consider during planting winter wheat this fall are as listed below:

Planting Time: Planting time is highly correlated with the yield potential in winter wheat. From a five year SD study conducted from 1997 to 2001, John Rickertson, a former SDSU Extension Agronomy Field Specialist reported that ideal time for planting winter wheat in the northern part of the state is from September 1st to 15th whereas, in the southern part it can be planting anywhere from September 15th to 30th (For details: Planting early may cause some disease incidence and planting late can lead to poor fall stand. In either case, we will see yield hit during harvest. Planting on plant stubble will help retain snow in the winter helping wheat for the winter survival.

Variety Selection: Selecting proper variety for your farm is one of the most important management decisions. Choosing a high yielding variety is ever important, however pest resistance (disease, insect) and ability to tolerate adverse winter temperatures in this region are also equally important. First step in making varietal selection decision is to look up for crop performance trial results. South Dakota State University Extension Service provides a detailed look on most recent trials. You can find these results at

Seeding Rate and Depth: The seeding rate can vary from 90,000 to 1.2 million viable seeds per acre. Planting higher range is good for the delayed planting but exceeding this range may cause some lodging problem at the harvest. Planting depth for winter wheat is suggested to be one to 1.5 inches deep. Soil is usually short in moisture during fall so planting shallow will help emerge the seeds quicker upon any fall rain.

Fall Stand: The crop stand in the fall is related to the time of seeding. Seeds that are planted during the recommended time range will have plants with 2-3 tillers before freezing. These plants will resume rapid growth in the spring and yield to its potential. Too early or late planting will have varied fall stand with significantly reduced yield. Weather permitting, you can take fall stand counts after emergence and match up with your seed rate. Also, repeating counts in the following spring will provide a good measure of winter kill.