Northeast Texas wheat farmers may be planting more seed than they need for top yield and cost effectiveness.

“Seeding rate is one of the most misunderstood input variables in the production of soft red winter wheat in Northeast Texas,” says Jim Swart, Texas AgriLife Extension integrated pest management specialist, who works out of Commerce.

Swart says recent surveys show that the most common seeding rate in the region is 100 to 120 pounds of seed per acre. “Yet numerous research trials over the past 25 years have shown that the most productive seeding rate is somewhere between 60 and 90 pounds of seed per acre.”

Reducing seeding rate can save farmers money on up-front production expenses, Swart says, and also reduce potential for some other problems.

“Higher seeding rates are more susceptible to lodging.”

Buying good seed is crucial. “Certified seed is an excellent and affordable investment,” he says. “A low seeding rate of a good certified variety will produce more grain and profit than any seeding rate from an inferior variety from the bin.”

He says the most cost effective seeding rate over the past 20 years for certified seed has been 60 to 90 pounds per acre. He also emphasizes the need to combine lower seeding rates with an adequate phosphate fertility program to encourage tillering. Row-placed phosphate, he says, is the best and cheapest way to go, as one pound of phosphate in the row will produce the same results as two pounds, broadcast. This will cut the cost of starter fertilizer in half.

Swart says trials from 1985 through 2010 demonstrate the advantage of lowering seeding rates.

Data show that a 30-bushel–per-acre seeding rate results in a surprisingly high 54.4 bushel-per-acre yield and a $273.60 return over seed cost. (That’s based on seed cost of $20 per 50 pound unit at $5.25 per bushel.)

At 60 pounds per acre, yield increases to 60.7 bushels per acre and return per unit goes to $294.68. At a 90-bushel seeding rate, yield is up slightly, 62.3 bushels per acre, but return drops slightly to $291.08. With 120 bushels per acre, yield is 62.4 bushels and return dips to $279.60.

“Lowering seeding rates in combination with row-placed phosphate is one of the few instances where growers can actually reduce their input costs and increase their profits with no penalty on yield,” Swart says.  “This practice also makes it possible for producers to buy and plant the best certified varieties available today.”