It is in years like this with low commodity prices that some farmers give wheat the dubious title of “poverty grass” because it is the least expensive crop they can produce. This is the time for growers to remember that when prices are low, there is little margin for error. This may not be the best time to use all the highest priced, premium inputs but neither is it the time to neglect yield. Instead of being focused merely keeping costs to a minimum, redirect growers’ attention to applying the best management practices to produce a high-quality crop with cost-effective inputs.
Best Spring Cereals Management Practices
Begin with good quality seed and plant it early. Early planting with quality seed is one of the most economical steps a grower can take to protect yield potential. In some of the Northern US regions growers like to get their spring wheat planted while the ground is still cold which can slow germination and put the seedlings at greater risk for disease. This is when growers are well advised to use an economical seed treatment to protect their investment.
Most of the issues and concerns with seedling diseases are driven by the environment and growing conditions. Seed treatments are one of the best buffers against poor growing conditions – especially to control those problems that are seen early in the year. Seed treatments optimize the crop’s genetic potential. Smut is a disease that should be taken as a given. There are a variety of economical treatment products to control this disease. Under normal conditions, Pythium is another disease that can be controlled with an economical metalaxyl seed treatment and if other diseases such as fusarium or rhizoctonia are present, don’t be afraid to add another chemistry to protect that potential.
A basic fertilizer application is essential to get a cereal crop off to a healthy start and give plants their best hope of withstanding early season insect and disease pressures. When prices are low, cutting back on fertilizer rates to lower production costs puts the entire crop at risk by lowering potential for both yield and protein content. Increase application rates only as long as the added units provide a positive ROI. When commodity prices are low, the optimal rate will be less than when prices are higher. Plan ahead and remain flexible. There are few last-minute options if Plan A fails.