Not Too Late to Plant Wheat, But Risks Increase with Delays


COLUMBUS, Ohio – Growers may still have time to plant wheat this fall even though cool, wet weather that has delayed soybean harvest for many growers is making wheat planting difficult for some, according to a field crops expert with Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

While wheat is ideally planted within  10 days past the fly-free safe date, which has now passed, growers can still plant wheat later into October but doing so is risky, said Laura Lindsey, a soybean and small grains specialist with the college’s outreach arm, Ohio State University Extension.

“If we experience a frost or freeze in November or December with late-planted wheat, the crops could see some problems,” she said. “But if the weather holds in November and December, the wheat should be fine.”

Soybeans across much of the state were planted late this spring due to cooler, wet, muddy conditions in May, Lindsey said.

“This year has been a difficult year to get soybeans off because of the weather earlier in the season resulted in most growers planting the last week of May into the first week of June,” she said. “And late planting means late-maturing plants.”

“A lot of beans are ready to be harvested now but have been delayed because of the continued wet weather.”

Statewide, for the week ended Oct. 5, soybeans were 21 percent harvested with 88 percent of soybeans dropping leaves, according to the Oct. 6 U.S. Department of Agriculture crop progress report. That compares to a five-year average of 23 percent harvested, with 87 percent dropping leaves during the same five year period, the USDA said.

“Heavy rains that occurred later in the week have slowed harvesting activities in the state,” the report said. “There were 4.9 days suitable for fieldwork in Ohio during the week ending Oct. 5.”

Despite the lateness in harvesting soybeans, many growers may still consider planting winter wheat thanks to the advantages of adding wheat to a corn-soybean rotation, Lindsey said.

“We’ve seen the acreage of wheat crops drop in recent years because of the shortened planting window due to weather concerns, but winter wheat is a useful crop to have in a corn-soybean rotation,” she said. “There is some data that shows that when you add wheat into a corn-soybean rotation, the rotational benefit can result in at least a 5 percent increase in both corn and soybean yields.”

Growers who are considering planting wheat now should consider boosting the seeding rate to 1.6 to 2 million seeds per acre, Lindsey said.

“The optimum seeding rate is 1.2 to 1.6 million seeds per acre when planting during the first two weeks following the fly-free-safe date,” she said. “As we enter three to four weeks after the fly-free-safe date, a seeding rate of 1.6 to 2.0 million seeds per acre is recommended.”

The Hessian Fly Safe Date for each county can be found here.

With later planting, a greater seeding rate is recommended to develop more tillers since the individual plant has less time to grow before winter dormancy.

“You want a certain number of tillers in the spring to have maximum wheat yield,” Lindsey said. “Increased seeding helps produce more tillers.”


Tracy Turner
For more information, contact: 

Laura Lindsey