If Labor Day was the optimal time to plant winter wheat for grazing in Oklahoma, the prime dates for dual-purpose and grain planting are approaching.

“It depends on what you are going for,” says Jeff Edwards, wheat specialist with Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service. “If you’re a forage guy, the earlier you plant, the more you produce. If you’re going for dual purpose, you’re going to lose grain yield.”

Edwards says the best time to plant for grain yield is around Oct. 10.

“But this year, we have high cattle prices and high grain prices,” he adds.

For producers seeking to take advantage of this situation with a stocker and grain enterprise, Edwards points to a Sept. 15 planting date to “balance things out.”

“Based on historical data, that’s the most economical date to maximize both enterprises,” he says.

However, Edwards cautions that these dates are based on the assumptions that producers are using the “correct” variety and the temperatures are “normal,” or in the low 90s, for mid-September in Oklahoma.

“When you plant early and you till right before you plant, you’re losing that top layer of moisture and you might be in a dusting-in situation even if you have some subsoil moisture,” Edwards says. “As the temperatures get cooler later, you won’t lose as much moisture with that last tillage operation.”

When thinking about planting, producers should bear in mind that they may have residual nitrogen in the soil due to the recent drought. Data from OSU’s Wheat Production Newsletter indicates that soil samples marked for wheat that were received by OSU’s Soil, Water and Forage Analytical Laboratory between June 10 and July 20, 2006, showed a 79 percent increase in nitrate-N over those received at the same time in 2005.

To determine residual N, collect a representative soil sample for analysis, noting that subsoil samples from 6 to 24 inches are needed to accurately assess the total amount of plant-available N.