Knowing the proper timing for fertilization or weed control on wheat can make a difference in the efficiency and economics of the application, a Texas AgriLife Extension Service specialist said.
A single pre-plant nitrogen application on wheat is not the most efficient or economical use of the fertilizer, said Dr. Todd Baughman, AgriLife Extension agronomist in Vernon.
Waiting to apply the nitrogen buys some time to evaluate the crop and determine its potential, Baughman said. In general, grain only requires a little nitrogen in the fall.
“You need to target the required nitrogen for the rapid growth period,” he said. “You do want some underneath it to help with the tillering process. But you have to make sure you get the nitrogen into the soil prior to jointing or the reproductive phase.”
Baughman warned that sometimes producers will want to wait on a rain during that time period, but some years doing so will put the application too late.
As the plant goes into the jointing stage, the maximum amount of nitrogen use occurs, he said.
“If you are in a grain/grazing situation, you should remember that 20 or more pounds of nitrogen will be taken off the field through the grazing process,” Baughman said. “You need to take that into account when determining how much nitrogen is needed to maximize grain production.”
Non-traditional fertilizer products may get more of a push this year than in past because of the high prices, he said, but warned producers, “if the promise is more than imagined or expected, be wary; ask questions before spending money.”
As for weed control, Baughman warned against pre-harvest applications, as they are primarily trying to dry down green material, and that is not the wisest way to spend that kind of money.
“Don’t let yourself get into a hole,” he said.
At the same time, Baughman said, make sure of what needs to be treated before buying any products.
“You will hear producers refer to having a ‘cheat problem,’ but mostly we have rescuegrass or a Japanese brome problem,” he said. “Know which one you are really dealing with to get the best control from the product you buy.”
Other things to manage are timing of the application, knowing whether it works best in the fall or spring, what surfactant is needed and the best tank-mix options, Baughman said. All of these can be found by reading the product labels.