Assessing Over-Wintering Crops
By Mike Sankey | April 25, 2022
The snow has ended (hopefully) and spring is finally here. Though we are having a slow start to warming up in most parts of Wisconsin, some of our over-wintering crops are showing signs of life. Here are a few things to take a look at on winter wheat and alfalfa.
Some of you have put the first pass of nitrogen on your wheat stands to promote tillering and early vegetative growth. Now is the time to walk these stands to determine overall stand health and plant population. It is important to do this to: 1) figure out if the stand is worth keeping and 2) determine if additional nitrogen is needed to push the crop to its’ full potential.
Due to recent worldwide events, wheat pricing is looking attractive so any stands greater than 12-15 plants per ft² should be good enough to keep; assuming everything else is good. As we get further into spring, weed control will be crucial. Consider adding UAN to your weed control pass for extra nitrogen if your crop needs it or if you experienced N losses due to weather events.
Depending on where you are located, we are seeing alfalfa coming out of dormancy across the state. Overall, this past winter wasn’t too hard on alfalfa stands even with the lack of snow-cover. As fields come back to life, we should be doing some stand assessments to determine which fields should stay in production and which fields should be rotated. Every grower has different a situation and feed needs vary as well. As a general rule, established stands should have 6 or more plants per ft2, and stands seeded in the previous year should have 15-20 plants per ft2. As we get more growth, stem counts can be a more accurate way to do stand assessments. Root and crown scoring can also help sort out good stands vs. poor stands. Be sure to check for heaving, especially in poorly drained areas. Here is a link to a publication from UW-Extension talking about Stand Assessments and Root Scoring.
If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me or any of the Legacy Seeds staff. Additionally, if you would like help or advice while assessing your crops, feel free to reach out and we would be glad to help. Have a safe spring!