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Emergency Options for Seeding Small Grains

Jochum Wiersma, Small grains specialist

As the wet and cold weather continues to delay fieldwork and the window for small grain seeding is closing, you may be considering alternatives. Broadcast seeding methods, whether by air or with a pneumatic fertilizer spreader (floater), are an emergency option you can consider if you plan to stick with small grains. The chances of success are greatly improved when you heed the following:

  1. The broadcasted seed will need to be incorporated with some light tillage. Tillage prior to seeding is less critical if fall tillage resulted in a smooth and even field. A tillage operation following the broadcasting of seed is needed to incorporate the seed. Incorporation is essential to create seed to soil contact needed for successful germination and seedling establishment. Harrowing often is enough. Incorporation of the seed with tillage will result in variable seeding depth.

  2. The seeding rate will need to be increased as the stand loss percentage due to seed placement that is too deep or too shallow will increase. Research in Ohio and Wisconsin with winter wheat showed that the seeding rate needed to be increased with 15%. Local experiences with spring wheat point to an increase between 10 and 20%.

As stated already, broadcast seeding is an emergency option. Using a floater has the advantage that you will be able to spread fertilizer in a single pass. Expect uneven and often delayed emergence. Barley will be most sensitive to incorporating the seed too deep, while oats will have the most tolerance to seed being placed deeper than the optimum 1.5".

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