Dr. Shawn Conley, the State Soybean and Small Grains Specialist with UW-Madison, breaks down the benefits of small grains. He highlights the crop rotation benefit of including a small grain, variety selection, planting guidelines, and nutrient and pest management practices.
Hello, my name is Shawn Conley I’m the State Soybean and Small Grains Specialist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Here we’re going to go through and talk about some of the questions we get about profitable small grains production across the state. Any type of system, the first thing, we will have to focus on is the variety selection. Part of the responsibility of my program is to run our Wisconsin win rate performance trials. And we post that annually under my webpage, which is www.coolbean.info. Here we can see the locations where we run our trials. These are primarily the predominant winter wheat growing regions within a state. I know there’s some up here in Wausau as well, but for the most part, we cover most of the state. Here’s some of the data tables that we work with. And I really want to focus in on how we portray this data. So we provide farmers with a forecast average, and these are aligned by company name. And we’ve looked at and focused primarily on yield and test weight. However, in a given year, we have a disease problem, we’re very fortunate to have Dr. Damon Smith’s crew of people come out and take disease ratings for us so we can post that relevant information for farmers and crop consultants to utilize and making their decisions for any selection. You’ll notice here we have what we call starred varieties. The starred varieties are those varieties that are statistically similar to the highest yielding variety we have either within a location or across all of our locations put together. One of the other points we really want to make known is that we all know that crop rotation is important, but it’s also the sequence of that rotation that is important here. So we’ll go in and look at some data from our long term cropping system research trial held at Arlington, Wisconsin. And here we go. Looking at our corn, soybean, soybean and wheat systems. And we’ll focus here on which system is the most profitable, as in the highest yielding, I should say. So the highest yielding rotation for each crop would be the corn soybean wheat rotation. You look here on the corn side of things, corn grown in this sequence, it’s 11% higher than continuous corn and substantially higher than wheat grown after corn. On the soybean side of things, soybean grown in this cropping sequence, corn soybean wheat, is 26% higher than what we’d see for continuous soybean. Then, on the wheat side of things, we have wheat grown into corn soybean wheat rotation is 129% higher than that of continuous winter wheat. So the point I’m really trying to get across here is rotation is important but also sequence. Here for Wisconsin at least in this trial, the corn soybean wheat sequence is the highest yielding across all crops involved. I want to quickly walk through and talk about some different growth stages we have here. And here’s the Feekes scale, and this is the primary one that we’ll see in herbicide and fungicide labels for making decisions in winter wheat. As we go through today I’m going to focus on some specific growth stages and management functions that happen at each one of these different Feekes growth stages. So in any type of profitable system, we always, especially at small grains, we strongly recommend that farmers plant new seed each and every year. Plant certified or privately professional preferred seed, that is true to variety and has a high germ. Make sure that you do not save seed from any field that had glyphosate used as a harvest aid, also Fusarium Head Blight. Again, our main recommendation is to plant new seed every single year. However, I know times are tough and sometimes economics drive you to save your own seed and replant it. In that case, there’s four quick steps to do. First of all, step one, determine if you can legally plant wheat seed that you save. There’s a lot of private varieties that have patents on them that do not allow you to legally save and replant that wheat seed. Next point is to determine when you can legally save it, clean that wheat seed. Next, perform a germination test and then assess the need for a seed treatment. And you can find that in A3646, which is Pest Management in Wisconsin field crops. We do, in Wisconsin, recommend that farmers do use a fungicide seed treatment. If you’re kind of curious about what that seed treatment package is, feel free to visit Dr. Damon Smith, What’s On Your Seed publication. And you can go through and get an idea of what are the active ingredients used in any of these seed treatments of what we see here in Wisconsin, on either corn, soybean or any of the small grains seed treatments.
When in terms of our recommendation, we want to target our seeding rate for wheat planted between September 20 and October 1, and 1.75 million seeds per acre. Again, we did some work previously, and then we found you know, we used to have a recommendation 1.5, when we saw an extra two bushels, a significant increase. Moving from 1.5 to 1.75. Again at the farmer, and you can’t buy that extra 250,000 seeds and cover that two bushel yield increase. And feel free to stick back with that 1.5 million seeds recommendation that we’ve had in the past. We’re looking at recommendations for seeding depth, we recommend that wheat should be planted between one and one and a half inches deep, regardless of whatever planting date you have. And the reason for that is I know when we get delayed in planting, many times farmers will want to plant it in shallow just to get it out of the ground. And the challenge with that is finding it at that shallow depth we usually run into some issues related to tiller formation, as well as overwintering capacity. And here’s a good example of that. I would say roughly 60% of the time, the challenge is when I go into the spring and assess a weed stand and it looks ugly, this is from too shallow up planting. So as an agronomist, it is pretty easy to go out and determine that depth. You see here. This is where the seed carcass is right next to the crown, that seed was placed roughly a quarter inch deep. So you can see that we’re lacking some tiller formation and overall growth and vigor in this plant. Here you notice a structure called the sub crown internode. And you can measure the distance from that to the crown, we see that that seed was placed about an inch deep, which is the correct depth for planting. And with that, we can really see an improved vigor and growth of that plant. So again, regardless of whatever day you plant, strive to get that winter wheat seed in at least a half, excuse me, at least one inch in depth. Now we recommend that the farmers plant between September 20 and October 1. And one of the things we can see here is that after roughly that September 20-25th planning date, we’re losing roughly one bushel per acre per day for every day we’re delayed. Now I always get questions at around Halloween time regarding you know, can I still plant wheat? The answer is yes, but you’re really going to be struggling to achieve maximum yield potential at that point. And here we see with this data, we’re losing roughly 25 bushels per acre by delaying our winter wheat from that last week in September to that last week in October. One of the ways we’re trying to get farmers in this crop sequence, a corn, soybean winter wheat and to get wheat planted on time, is to think about possibly planting early maturity groups. Soybeans, that won’t sacrifice in a yield and allow you to harvest that crop in an earlier in a timely manner. So here, for example, this would have been data from 2020, we took all the early maturity beans from our northern location, which would be Spooner and planted them at Arlington, Wisconsin, which would be one of our southern locations. Typically, farmers in this area are planting a 2.5 maturity group soybean. In this case, we put maturities from a 0.4 all the way up to a 1.5, and we see very high yield capacity. You know, all of these varieties yield statistically the same to this pro harvest at 90 bushels per acre. So again, I think there is some potential there to plant some early beans, and not sacrifice a significant amount of you. Again, this is one year one location. So I’m not telling farmers to go out and automatically put out a 0.4. But I think there are options here if we dig into this a little bit deeper, to be able to get your soybean harvested early, not sacrificing the yield on the soybean side of things and then be able to get your winter wheat planted on time or in a timely manner in order to get maximum wheat potential as well.
So here’s some data that we looked at. When that plant in the early maturity beans had physiological maturity. So again, we see this 1.0 bean hit physiological maturity at September 11th. Roughly in a normal year, generally see the number of days between physiological maturity and combine ready to harvest, is about 10 days. So this would estimate at 1.0 bean, we would be able to go in harvest right around September 26. Then, as we generally see in, Wisconsin, have a wheat planter right directly followed by combine across the field. So again, this gives us some options in order to put those acres that we know are going into winter wheat, get them in in a timely manner by planting an earlier maturity of soybean and not sacrifice much, if any, yield at all. Now, once we get beyond that October 1, we asked growers to start incrementally increasing their seeding rate. So between October 1, and October 31, we push growers to be pushing from that 1.75 million seeds per acre up to 2.1 to 2.2 million seeds per acre. And the rationale behind that is we’re just not going to get the tiller formation on winter wheat that we require to maximize yield. So in order to effectively get more heads per unit area out there, the only way we can do that is increase our seeding rates. So again, just a recommendation that if we are planting later, increase that seeding rate to be able to get a higher effective head number out there in your winter wheat crop. Now again, we usually get this question with some of our light planted wheat right around Halloween or that first week in November: Is this wheat plant going to survive? Is it going to fertilize? And the quick and dirty answer to that is yes. Once that wheat seed starts a germination process, all it needs to do is imbibe water and start the germination process. That winter wheat will then vernalize and grow the following spring. So again, the short answer is yes. But again, we’re going to be sacrificing a significant amount of the yield if we’re planting that late. Look, I talk a lot about this. But again, this is just our overwintering, you know we set that field up to maximize winter wheat yield. Now what are the next steps forward in order to profitably grow winter wheat in Wisconsin. In the spring at Green Up, this is when we asked growers to go out and get a general overview of their fields, look for any drowned out spots or dead spots, look for winter survival, do a plant count, if you will, our recommendation for tearing up a field somewhere in that 12 to 15 plants per square foot. So if there’s less than that 12 to 15, that’s an automatic tear up of that field and replant to another crop. This is also the timing, according to some of the work of Dr. Carrie Lebowski at University of Wisconsin Madison has done, to consider your nitrogen application. So really put out your nitrogen at this cleanup phase for maximizing your potential in winter wheat in Wisconsin. This is a table pulled out of a 2009, It looks at the the suggested nitrogen application rates. Again, since the crop sequence that we really want to focus on is corn, soybean wheat, we look at soybean, in this table right here. And then we look at the nitrogen to wheat price ratio wherever that may lie shows us what the recommended pounds of total N would be in that scenario. So here if nitrogen wheat price ratio of 0.075, the range to put out there would be between 40 and 60 pounds of N per acre falling soybean. So again, look at look this up in 2809 and helps you tailor what your nitrogen recommendations would be based on your soil type in your cropping sequence. Introduce Feekes six growth stage to everyone here, just because this point is where broken stems will happen due to field track damage. This is usually the point to where we see many of the herbicides labels suggest that no application passes growth stage. So again, it’s want to make this point this out for farmers or applicators that you’re looking for Feeks six in order to, A) understand what the wheel track damage could be and also looking for herbicide labels at this point.
Feekes nine is when the flag leaf is emerged from the whorl and the ligule is just visible. You can see that on this picture right here. This is usually the timing if we’re looking for a foliar fungicide targeted for stripe rust or leaf rust. That timing would go out at Feekes nine. Now for more information on fungicide application timings, look at some of the information out there from Dr. Damon Smith at the UW-Madison for looking at products, rates and timings at this Feekes nine. The last and probably important one to terms of management decisions would be Feekes 10.51, this is thesis, so when flowering begins. If you look here, on this on this wheat head, we see that here are flowers and then when these anthers are extruded from that wheat head and we can see here in this image. I should further say that that wheat head start flowering from the middle of the head and proceed up and down that spikelets. So, again, this is a timing where we’ll be looking at making a fungicide application to target Fusarium head blight or scam. So I kind of want to take some of this work we’ve done recently into this intensive wheat management research that we’ve done, this has been published in agronomy journal, you can click here, in order to go see that, or we have an extension version of this posted on my website, which is www.cool bean.info. How we looked at this is we kind of looked at management intensity, or, in this case, four years of this experiment. So we have a current level of management, which is kind of just a base recommendation for farmers to look at, we have a mid level where we start adding additional inputs, which is the higher seeding rate, a little bit of extra nitrogen either split out, as well as a fungicide application targeted at Feekes 10.51 system head scan. And then we have the high level, if you will, we’re really trying to push this crop for maximum meal, we put additional nitrogen out there, we’re putting a growth regulator to help these plants stand. Given the high input costs, we’re applying micronutrients, we’re actually putting two different foliar fungicides out there, one at Feekes nine and one at Feekes 10.51. And then we’re also adding macronutrients into the mix. So again, it’s really an intensive way of really trying to push, push yield, and, and see if we can maximize yield and productivity across the landscape. So this slide here is a little fuzzy, but really gets at work that we did, and these, over the timeframe of these experiments, we didn’t have a tremendous amount of disease pressure. But a couple of points we would note is that those foliar applications of either Pissarro, or mayorvasacee really helped us out with some of the management of Fusarium head blight. So again, I just want to make that point that we did see some activity of those products. Now, it’s a really busy slide, I apologize for that. But it really want to get at what’s going on at the plot level as well as management level. So when we’re looking at this slide, again, we go by year, we have our current level, mid level or high level of management, we have all the varieties we tested over the four years of this experiment. So, first thing I want to point out is look at the variability in yield. And that’s why variety selection is extremely important, when it comes to production of winter wheat. We see here, top to bottom, we see over a 30 bushel or right around a 30 bushel I should say yield advantage just based on genetics alone. Then we target the management level by genetic interactions, and there’s lots of reading here. But I really want to point out here at the bottom, then we see in 2016, from going from the current to the mid level, we saw a six bushel yield advantage. And then going to the high level in that year, we saw an additional 12. We don’t always see that big of a response in a year. But in most years, or excuse me all years, we did see a significant yield increase, going from the current level to that mid level. And at some years, we did see a differentiation when we went to that high level of management. Now in Wisconsin yield is important, but test weight is as well. So we look at this figure right here we can see terms of the test weight averages. We see a huge variation from 59.2 pound test weight, all the way down to 54.3. So again, trying to balance this differentiation between high yield potential and test weight because we want to maximize yield. But we also don’t want to take dockage at the elevator.
Another interesting point to note here, is across most of these years, we did see a test weight advantage, ie an increased test weight going from our current level to our mid level. Again, we didn’t always see it going between the mid and high. But we always saw a bump in test weight when we went from the current to at least the mid level. So again, balancing yield potential with test weight and using, our management level to maximize both of our profitability and maximizing yield and our test weight. Now one of the things we really want to take into play is to sort out the economics of these systems. So here we talk about the frequency of priced deductions, ie dockage by our different management levels. So in all of our cases, we ran these scenarios. So for no test weight deduction, under a current system, we did not get a test weight 14, test weight deduction 14% of the time, or we moved to the mid and high level, were right around that 37 to 43% of the time, we saw no test weight deduction by implementing those management practices. The other thing I want to point out as we go down here, is that this test cents, test week deduction. So roughly 51% of the time, we saw test weight deduction of at least 10 cents in a current system, when compared to either our mid or high level, which were between right around 30%. Now, if we go down to no don deduction, in the mid and current level, we saw roughly 100% of the time, we did not see don deduction out. Again, this was not a tremendously bad scab years, at least at the locations we were at. But again, it shows us how that management level can really reduce our dockage for both don deduction as well as test weight. Whereas the current system 20% of the time, we did get at least some form of deduction, based on our Don levels. And when we put all of these scenarios, together varieties, we really want to kind of dig down and what is the most profitable and if we look based on profit of grain straw produced, estimated cost of management and the probability of deduction, the mid level management was by far and away the most profitable system where we saw $263.90 average profit in both grain and straw. And part of that is based on the fact that in both our mid level production and high low production, we saw about a half a ton greater straw production in that mid and high level. So in Wisconsin, obviously, grain is important. Management production is important. But the production of straw is tremendous. And there’s a lot of value in Wisconsin in terms of our straw production and what that value is to the farmer is just betting a loan or selling it outright. So again, I think we’d be look at this system here, this mid level management is a good opportunity for farmers to maximize straw production and maximize profitability. For more information on winter wheat production, please go to my website, which is www.coolbean.info. You can follow me on Twitter @badgerbean and for any information of things going on in season, follow me on the soy report.blogspot.com Thank you for your time and have a great day.