Managing Dual-purpose Wheat: A Crop Planted “Out of Season”
Cattle ranchers in the Texas-Oklahoma region intentionally set themselves up for a management challenge when they plant dual-purpose wheat for both grazing and grain. The idea is to plant hard red winter wheat early enough in August for it to grow and provide early-winter forage for grazing. Then the ranchers remove the cattle to allow the wheat to grow and produce a grain crop later in the spring.
In other words, they plant wheat out of season, ahead of the Hessian fly-free date when wheat seed will be a sitting target for the full onslaught of early fall soilborne pests and diseases.
For this to be a profitable proposition, the weather needs to cooperate and the rancher must make correct management decisions. There are good reasons why farmers in this region wait until late September and October to plant wheat. Early planted wheat invites greenbugs, Hessian flies, disease and other pests, which declare open season on seed and the emerging crop. With effective management decisions, dual-purpose wheat can usually beat the odds.
Beating the Odds
Know the source of your seed. Plant breeders at Oklahoma State University and elsewhere are developing varieties adapted for dual-purpose production. These varieties tend to recover faster from grazing and have more abundant tillers for grain production. Planting certified seed reduces the risk of introducing seedborne diseases, which could flourish in warmer August weather.
Seed treatment offers the only available protection for early-planted seed against seedling diseases and pests. Matching the seed treatment to the pest pressure is critical, as there is only one opportunity to apply an effective treatment for early-season insect and disease control and the prevention of seed decay caused by aspergillus and penicillium. A premixed seed treatment product, such as Nufarm’s Sativa IMF Sembolite Max protects seed/seedlings against diseases, including Rhizoctonia, Fusarium and Pythium in addition to controlling aphids, Hessian fly and wireworms. Including a biological booster in the seed treatment can help promote root development and faster plant growth.
Finally, double the planting rate for wheat intended for grazing before it matures for grain production. With careful attention to making the proper management decisions, dual-purpose wheat can be a profitable option in the Texas-Oklahoma region even when it is planted early in the season.