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Don’t Rush Winter Wheat Establishment

Posted: August 28, 2012

A reminder not to get too anxious when it comes to establishing small grain stands.

As our growing season for corn and soybeans begins to wind down, focusing on establishing another crop of winter small grains begins. Producers should be reminded not to get too anxious when it comes to establishment timing of small grain stands.

I usually get a few calls each year asking what the “fly-free date” is for our county. For decades, farmers were advised to plant after that date to avoid trouble with the Hessian fly. The flies of the fall brood appear in late September and live for only about one week. They lay their eggs on the leaves of young wheat plants. The fly-free date typically occurs after peak emergence of the Hessian fly. If the flies emerge and die off before the new wheat plants are up the crop cannot be infested.

Another management option would be to select Hessian fly resistant varieties of small grains. However, other pest management benefits are also associated with planting wheat after the fly-free date. Several viral and fungal diseases are much more prevalent in wheat that is planted prior to the fly-free date.

Ohio State has indicated long-term average yields are highest for wheat planted during a 10-day period following the fly-free date. Of course, it’s usually not the case that you’ll be able to get all of your crop in the ground within a few days…mother nature, equipment failure, or a long list of other things can throw a monkey wrench into your plans! But, it is important to be as timely as possible to insure that seedlings have sufficient time and warm weather to develop a strong root system and multiple tillers. Once 10 days have passed beyond the fly-free date, yield potential tends to decline at least one bushel for each additional day of delay.

Click here for a list of the fly-free date for your county.

Contact Information

Dwane Miller
  • Extension Educator, Agronomy
Phone: 570-622-4225 x14