Wheat contest winners discuss methods to boost yields
Mon, 25 Jan 2021 11:21:02 CST
Illinois wheat growers averaged 68 bushels per acre for the 2020 crop, up a bushel from the previous year. But results of the Illinois Wheat Association (IWA) yield contest show the crop has even more potential if managed intensively and the weather cooperates.
“We had numerous yields (in the contest) above 100 bushels, which I recall growing up was unheard of in Illinois,” said Dean Campbell, IWA secretary who farms in Randolph County.
The 2020 Illinois wheat yield contest featured 13 entries that topped the 100-bushel mark. David Justison of Montgomery County won the event with 126.7 bushels per acre, followed by Dan Rubin of Fayette County with 124.7 bushels and Dale Wehmeyer of St. Clair County with 119.4 bushels. The award-winning wheat growers discussed some of their keys to successfully growing a combination of wheat/soybeans during the Double Crop Farmers Forum hosted by IWA and the Illinois Soybean Association. Wheat contest winners discuss methods to boost yields Dale Wehmeyer, St. Clair County, launched Agri-MAXX Wheat in 2009.
Growing a quality wheat crop starts with variety selection. The growers look for varieties with disease resistance and standability, among other traits. “If you’re going to push yields, make sure the variety has good standability,” said Wehmeyer, who launched Agri-MAXX Wheat in 2009. Preparing a good seedbed and timely planting are also vital to getting the crop off to a good start in the fall.
Justison has planted wheat as early as late September up to Nov. 10 but finds the sweet spot to maximize crop potential falls during the first two weeks of October.
“I plant 1.2 to 1.7 million seeds per acre to get a heavy crop,” he said. “It seems to help on weed control.”
Rubin plants about 1.6 to 1.7 million seeds per acre, while Wehmeyer is near the same range at 1.5 to 1.6 million seeds.
“If I target 1.5 million seeds, I want it all in the ground,” Wehmeyer said. “We want a very good seedbed.”
The farmers practice steps such as evenly spreading the residue from the previous crop and various forms of tillage, from discing and turbo tilling to running an accelerator ahead of the drill. Another key to increasing wheat output involves in-season management and avoiding the “plant it and forget it” trap.
“We use all treated seed, with insecticide and fungicide,” said Rubin, IWA president, who grows seed wheat. “This time of year, around Feb. 1, we evaluate stands and determine nitrogen rates. We two-pass it.”
Rubin generally conducts two fungicide passes, one at the flag leaf stage and the other around flowering. Wehmeyer grows seed wheat as well and follows similar management practices.
“Anything competing with the wheat plant can impact yield,” he said. “You want to eliminate those.”
David Justison of Montgomery County won the 2020 Illinois Wheat Yield contest with an entry of 126.7 bushels per acre. Farmers should harvest wheat in a timely manner and have a plan to deal with the straw so the following soybean crop can be planted soon after in a good seedbed.
Rubin can’t harvest wheat above 14% moisture for seed production purposes, but farmers growing wheat for grain can harvest up to 19% to 20% moisture if they have a dryer.
“The big thing with double crop is get the wheat off and get the beans in,” said Justison, who planted 1,200 acres of wheat last fall. He typically sells 50% of it prior to harvest.
Farmers should chop and spread the wheat straw, bale it or consider other options, such as burning it.
“When you’re dealing with 100 to 120-bushel wheat, a challenge is it creates a lot of straw,” Rubin said. “You want to get the straw spread as evenly as possible. We’ve got a premium chopper/spreader on our combine.”
Illinois farmers harvested the most soybeans (605 million bushels) of any state in the nation last year with an average yield of 59 bushels per acre, up 5 bushels from 2019.
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