Skip to main content
Visit the University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Apply to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Give to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Visit the University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Apply to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Give to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Stumpf Farm - Spring Wheat Trials
University of Nebraska – Lincoln
Strahinja Stepanovic discusses preliminary results on spring wheat variety trials and impact of nitrogen fertilizer rate on yield and protein.
Toggle between list and paragraph view.
Hello, this is Strahinja Stepanovic
and I'm UNL graduate student.
Today I'll be talking about spring wheat production
in Western Nebraska.
To get you started, I just wanna talk about the most common
crop rotation in Western Nebraska for drawling agriculture.
And most of the guys in the past 20, 30 years
have done wheat-corn-fallow but over the years
that fallow component of that crop predation
has become more expensive just because we have to use
more herbicides and weeds got tougher to control
so we're spending anywhere between 40 and a 100 dollars
every year on fallow.
And especially if you're renting the cash rent has gone up
since 30 years ago.
And then we think corn prices also in that crop rotation
have gone down to a point where in the past couple of years
we hit some record low weak prices
and corn prices have been three to four dollars.
So on top of that, we had issues with wheat grain protein
so that old rotation has becoming less attractive
and more guys are interested in doing
continuous crop rotation.
So in a continuous crop rotation,
there's basically two groups of farmers.
One of them is trying to do wheat that likes to keep
that wheat because of that residue
they're trying to do wheat-corn alternative crop
with alternative crop being field peas or chickpeas
or proso millet and even dry land soybeans or milo.
And there's still a good number of guys
that are keeping that three year rotation
but a lot of them are going to continue to scorn.
And I have year on the survey about 15% of the guys
but that probably went up to about 20 to 25 last year.
And it's probably going to continue to increase
with struggles on a weak market.
So this is where actually in this continuous crop rotation
is where farmers believe spring wheat has a potential
as a rotational crop as a crop
as a crop that's gonna break the weed and pest cycles.
About three third or fourth year into that rotation
farmers start typically to see a reduction in yield
and they don't see as much residue on the ground
so they know wheat can provide that residue
and spring wheat kind of gave him my idea to go in there
with that and hopefully harvested with stripper header,
build up their residue,
and then going to the continuous corn cycle again.
So one interesting thing about spring wheat
that UNL actually looked at spring wheat about 30 years ago
and did about five years of spring wheat variety
of elevation in Nebraska
and it turns out then in Eastern Nebraska,
and this is 30 years ago guys so,
in Eastern Nebraska spring wheat yielded at about 37%
of winter wheat and in Nebraska Panhandle,
spring wheat yielded admirable 74% of winter wheat.
probably just higher elevation, cooler temperatures,
shorter season cooler temperatures than in Eastern Nebraska,
kind of made him more favorable environment
for spring wheat.
And you must be asking yourself with that 70%
yield of winter wheat,
why did we not adopt spring wheat 30 years ago?
Well, there's a lot of spring.
First of all, spring wheat is a totally different crop
from winter wheat it has a different futures
and we don't have an infrastructure
we don't have readily available crop insurance,
marketing opportunities, availability of seed,
every little storage has to be separate from winter wheat.
So we did not have that 30 years ago
we don't have it right now
unless you have your own storage and your own marketing
that you do yourself.
But also that wheat-corn-fallow rotation works pretty well
for a lot of guys back in the days.
Corn prices were better, wheat prices were better
there was not as many herbicide resistant weeds
so fallow was very efficient.
So they just kinda abandoned it
it didn't have a as much value.
And what has changed today is actually that corn
and wheat price went down and fallow is more less effective.
Like I said, gastrin went up and taxes are expensive
so more guys want to do continuous cropping.
So with the financial opportunity changing
in favor of spring wheat, you know,
maybe it's time to revisit that and see if those yield
differences between winter wheat still stand.
So we wanted to kick off this research this year
at Henry J.Stumpf International Wheat Center near Grant.
Our objective was to look at the look at the number of
spring wheat varieties
basically anything that we can get a hold on
because there's no breeding programs in central
and Southern Plains for spring wheat.
Most of those rallies came from the North,
and we also wanted to get some baseline information
The two things that kind of popped out was tillage
and nitrogen rates.
So this is how the demo plot looked like at Grant this year
here's the layout.
So first of all, we had different tillage blocks
here's a no-till block
and then next to it was vertical till.
and then conventional till.
Conventional till is a little bit more aggressive type
of tillage that incorporates most of the residue
whereas no-till kind of chops up the residue districts
to ground a little bit.
Farmers believed that tillage helps us break down
that residue and warms up the soil a little bit better,
it's easier to plant and it has a better stand.
We have seen some of the spring tea producers
do that in our area.
So we had those three tillage blocks then three days after
the tillage was performed we planted 19 different varieties
in each tillage block.
So and then a month after that,
we came in with the sprayer across all those varieties
and tillage blocks and applied five different nitrogen rates
ranging from zero to 200 pounds of nitrogen.
One important thing to mention is that previous crop
was actually corn and we had 120 bushel yield on this
field for dry land corn.
And there was about 19 pounds of nitrogen
in the top two feet of soil to start this crop.
We planted spring wheat very early
we're talking about early March.
A lot of years we can't get into the field early March
because it's still frozen.
As a matter of fact, there were still a lot of parts
of the field frozen at that time on this farm
but this was kind of a senior soil
so it worked out well for us.
The seeding grade that we use
that was recommended to us was actually 1.3 million seeds
per acre but we up that one to 1.5 million live seeds
and we then adjusted that to 90% germination.
So we probably had a 1.7 around 1.7 million seeds out there.
We just didn't want it to seeding for seeding rate
to be a limiting factor
and just looking at how the plants got up
and going there was not as many tillers
that we thought it would be.
So seeding grade would be a very interesting study
I think even 2000 seeds, 2 million seeds
might be even better than will be planted here.
So we just didn't want that to be a factor.
We like many of the guys in Western Nebraska,
we hit pretty dry and hot year for spring wheat
and as a cool season crop especially in June out there
we had two inches of water less than what we get on average.
And a lot of guys didn't even get a drop of rain
during that time in our area
but on top of that we had a lot of 100 degree days
and just a hot blowing wind all the time.
And this is during the critical period of flowering
and grain filling for spring wheat.
So it wasn't really a great year
for any spring planted crop.
So going back to looking at the varieties
and what they yielded our plot average
was 16.8 bushels per acre, which given a year,
we were pretty pleased with .
Averaging across all nitrogen treatments and tillage blocks,
the best variety was WestBred 9590
that yielded 20.2 bushels per acre
which was 42% of winter wheat yield that we got
in a field just close by.
What was really interesting also is that we contacted
six breeding programs from the North
and five of them actually had at least one variety
in a upper half of yield rankings whereas North Dakota,
all five varieties from North Dakota
actually were in a bottom half of yield ratings.
So I wouldn't throw any one of these away just yet
because marketing is going to be such a big component
of this study.
We gonna try to look at the grain protein as well as
baking and milling qualities for these varieties.
So for example, if you have a good yielding variety
but the millers don't want it
and they don't have enough protein
or enough desirable baking and milling qualities,
you gonna have a hard time selling that variety.
So we gonna do some kind of post-harvest analysis
on grain to inform you guys on that as well.
In terms of spring wheat response to nitrogen,
what I found most interesting is that
we had six bushel yield at zero applied nitrogen
which is pretty poor
but with 50 pounds of nitrogen applied,
we got to 10 bushel yield bump.
And then for additional 150 pounds of nitrogen,
we only got six or seven bushel yield bump.
So three times as much, three times,
four times as much nitrogen and about half his yield gain
that was really interesting.
So if you look at the,
we talk about how many pounds of nitrogen to make a bushel
of grain for winter wheat.
And for spring wheat, when we applied 50 pounds of nitrogen,
it actually took 3.5 pounds of nitrogen to make a bushel.
And at the high nitrogen rate
it actually took 8.6 pounds of nitrogen to make a bushel.
Another interesting thing, you can see that
that in that nitrogen response, when it starts to plateau,
and we start adding that nitrogen,
it will be interesting after we do the protein analysis
to just see how much the grain protein will change
with that higher rate of nitrogen.
So compared that to winter wheat,
winter wheat we'll make a bushel with about two
it needs about two pounds of nitrogen to make a bushel.
So we gonna be fertilizing more per bushel on spring wheat
than we do on winter wheat, that's the bottom line.
Another things that I want to mention is that
on the lower nitrogen grades,
the tillage treatments actually perform better
possibly because chopping down that residue, breaking down
residue, facilitating the mineralization of organic matter
we had some nitrogen release.
So tillage treatments actually yield a better
and low nitrogen rate whereas on a high nitrogen rate,
no till yielded about seven and up to 10 bushel yield
advantage over tillage treatments.
So if you don't touch that rate in a year,
we had so dry and so hot that extra residue on the ground
help reduce the evaporation, have more water available
for the crop and then increase the yield potential.
And when you increase the yield potential,
that's where the benefits from additional nitrogen
So when we talk about the optimal nitrogen rate
this year the optimal nitrogen rate for spring wheat
was 51 pounds of nitrogen per acre
but that will highly depend on a number of factors.
First of all, being yield response to nitrogen rates.
So if we had a year with more rain
and a little bit cooler year,
the yield potential will probably increase
and we would have probably had better response to nitrogen,
but that didn't happen, we had dry and hot and dry year
So if we had a better year that that optimal nitrogen rate
would probably go up and the point of diminishing returns
would probably move into a higher nitrogen rate.
The economically optimal nitrogen rate also depends on
fertilizer, price and grain market price
that you get for your wheat.
So if you think about it if you are able to find nitrogen
if you are paying nitrogen or example, in this year
if you pay for an,
if your nitrogen fertilizer was about zero 40 cents a pound
and you were able to sell your spring wheat
for six dollars not five,
your optimal nitrogen rate would have been
78 pounds of nitrogen.
So that optimal nitrogen rate really depends
on a lot of factors
It's actually a really a moving target.
So a lot of guys ask me,
I don't wanna shoot for 20 bushel yield
and apply 20 pounds of nitrogen
so I want to shoot for that 40 bushel a year
and if I get the home run, I get paid.
So I wanna fertilizer 40 bushel yield and high protein
So if I throw in more nitrogen and I don't get that yield,
well, some of that nitrogen that I over apply
be available to the next year's crop either through the
residue or rest in the soil.
So that was an interesting question.
So after about a month after we harvest that spring wheat,
when I went out there to sample,
took some residue samples and soil samples,
analyze them for nitrogen content
and figure it out that
compared to control, 200 pounds of nitrogen rate
hit about 10 pounds of nitrogen and more in residue
and 100 pounds more in the soil.
So that means if you apply two kinds of pounds of nitrogen
this year, you know, crop probably left 100 pounds behind
So the crop only may be used a 100.
So is that going to be available for next year's crop?
That's a very interesting question.
It's about eight or nine months before now and corn planting
what's going to happen to that nitrogen
is going to be very interesting to see.
What we plan on doing is just planting corn
without any fertilizer and maybe doing some pre-plant
nitrogen analysis in a soil to see
if there's any difference.
So we gonna provide that information additionally.
Another thing that kinda got I was surprised with
is just how little residue was there after this year's crop.
We did not have a stripper header,
but we asked we have the stripper header,
but we were not able to harvest our plots with that
because we will lose a lot of grain.
We harvested some of the spring wheat
in a buffer plots with the stripper header,
which was really hard.
It was very short and we did not have as many,
I mean, we were risking about running that header
to the ground.
So stripper header is gonna be really hard
in a year like this.
So there was not a lot of residue either
So if you're looking to build up the residue
with spring wheat, I'm not sure if that's the way to go
Maybe, you know, going back to milo
instead of spring wheat or continuing corn
may be even better in terms of residue cover.
But one thing that we forget is spring wheat
doesn't tiller as much
and we a lot of times talk about how many pounds of residue
we have per bushel of grain.
And for winter wheat that actually ranges
or a rule of thumb is like a 100 pounds of residue
for each bushel by it's actually more than that,
especially if you plant it a little bit early
and over fertilize like we tend to do these days
but just for the protein content.
So it's about 120 pounds in spring wheat
that's actually about 83 pounds of residue
per bushel of grain so it's 30% less residue per bushel
then compare it to winter wheat.
So that's something to keep in mind going forward.
And this is the reference I use for that information.
So what are the conclusions?
We have some really promising varieties
that yielded good at still grain protein
and bacon and milling qualities are going to be important.
So we gonna have to do that before we make any conclusions
of what varieties are adaptable for our environment.
It's gonna take more than a year and multiple locations
so that's why UNL is doing a state five variety testing
right now and I've been told that Cody Creech
has the information available from four locations
in Nebraska including McCook, Grant
and two locations in a Panhandle
so stay tuned to look at that data as well, get informed.
In terms of tillage, no-till was by far the best practice
and then vertical and conventional tillage
especially at higher nitrogen rates.
And then the optimal nitrogen rate for this year
was 51 pound per acre.
Like I said that the lack of that residue up there
kind of concerns me a little bit,
but we haven't had a really good year for spring wheat
That's yet to be seen of what kind of residue we can expect
in a better year
but rotational studies are definitely needed
so if we're going to break out the cycle on corn
and see what's the benefit of going one year
into spring wheat instead of just keep doing corn
we're gonna have to do some rotational studies
on a side by side comparison
and that's going to take time at least two years
to set that up and it's going to be interesting just to see
where it takes us.
With that I would like to open up for any questions.
The screen size you are trying to search captions on is too small!
You can always
jump over to MediaHub
and check it out there.
Log in to post comments
West Central Water and Crops Field Days
iframe embed code:
Copy the following code into your page
<div style="padding-top: 56.25%; overflow: hidden; position:relative; -webkit-box-flex: 1; flex-grow: 1;"> <iframe style="bottom: 0; left: 0; position: absolute; right: 0; top: 0; border: 0; height: 100%; width: 100%;" src="https://mediahub.unl.edu/media/14315?format=iframe&autoplay=0" title="Video Player: Stumpf Farm - Spring Wheat Trials " allowfullscreen></iframe> </div>