The season of 2020 has taught us that winter wheat pushed into the later than expected drilling scenario, produced both good yield results and the associated, better black-grass control, in many regions.
Although earlier drilling of wheat has been completed by many this season, it is not for everybody.
Delayed or late drilling of winter wheat, considered to be from mid-October onwards, will remain common practice on many farms, particularly for black-grass management, in a second wheat situation, and for those who are drilling wheat after sugar beet or potatoes.
Select the right winter wheat variety for the late drilling slot to avoid unnecessary yield penalties. Get it wrong, and you could be facing fairly substantial yield penalties – and this is totally avoidable.
Characteristics of wheats for the late drilling slot
- High yield potential
- Strong tillering and vigorous
- Good specific weight
- Rapid growth and development in the spring
- Second wheat – select varieties that have the ability to perform in this testing situation
Late drilling presents a unique set of challenges to the crop; crops drilled later will not have been in the ground as long as those drilled earlier in the autumn, so the chosen variety needs to be quick off the blocks in the spring, once growing conditions are favourable.
For example, in a black-grass scenario, the variety needs to compete with its rapid growth rather than sit and tiller flat to the ground, and eventually become smothered by it. The theory is not complicated, and this is why LG Skyscraper and LG Spotlight suit the black-grass situation, over a variety like LG Sundance, which is high tillering with a late plant development in the spring.
LG Skyscraper and LG Spotlight show a strong consistency of performance for the later drilling and second wheat scenario and perform as well as, or better than varieties such as Skyfall and KWS Crispin.
Data from several seasons of work also suggests that taller wheats have an advantage regarding final yield potential in the later drilling scenario, and these larger plant canopies play an important role in keeping black-grass ear numbers and seed return to the minimum.
Top tips for later drilling of wheat
- One of the single most important factors in getting a late drilled crop off to a good start is the correct seed rate
- After the end of October, seed rates are difficult to quantify, as they are determined by the seasonal weather and seedbed preparation at the time of drilling
- Seed rates are increased the further drilling moves towards the winter months, to compensate for the impact on tillering of cooler temperatures and shorter days
- In good conditions in early November, the target should be a seed rate of 375-400 seeds/m2, increasing to 400–475 seeds/m2 at later drill dates, or in a black-grass or poor seedbed situation
- Effective seed treatments for either root disease control or an increased root growth/plant establishment should be considered, along with the appropriate management of slugs – especially in known high-risk situations
- Later drilled varieties often have the advantage of requiring lower inputs, and may not require an earlier autumn herbicide
- Choose varieties with a good disease resistance profile – certainly against mildew, as this can be problematic on some soil types in the late drilled situation
- In a second wheat situation, seed rates should be increased to allow for the later drilling date and the inevitable tiller loss from eyespot and take-all infections. LG Skyscraper has shown very good performance in this situation
- In a known eyespot situation, varieties that carry the Rendezvous Pch1 gene for eyespot resistance, e.g. Revelation, should be considered
- If the later drilling opportunity is applicable following the late lifting of root crops, then a variety such as LG Spotlight is worth consideration, due to its later safe sowing date – end of February