Dennis Pennington

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Proper development of a crop canopy will help increase yields, a wheat specialist from Michigan State University told a recent cereals and oilseeds webinar.

Dennis Pennington appeared via Webex for the half-day seminar held in place of the annual two day cereal and oilseeds conference. He said growers must consider whether they want to plant narrow or wide rows and whether to increase or decrease row spacing.

"What is going to be the impact on tillering?" he told the industry conference. "How many tillers do we want to target? Do we want an excessive amount of tillers or do we want to limit tillers?"

Pennington said he went to Germany to study planting and tilling recommendations. He said when planting early in the season, they follow a rate of 100-120 seeds per square metre, increasing that to 130-150 for mid-season planting and 200-250 when planting late.

He said the early rates were approximately a third of the rate recommended in Michigan and the late rate was approximately half of what that state recommends, yet the German producers were getting higher yields. The German recommendations called for a seeding depth of three centimetres for early planting with late planting at a depth of 1.5 to two centimetres. Most of the crop is space at 15 centimetres with a targeted seeding rate of 500-600 heads per square metre.

Pennington now has a trial under way in Michigan with row spacings from five to 15 inches, with seed populations from half a million to two million seeds per acre. He said the goal is to achieve uniform seed spacing and depth.

He noted the first five tillers are called first order tillers and any secondary tillers take their moisture from them and not from the plant directly. He said the production method in Germany is geared to keeping the plant at 4-5 tillers and avoiding secondary tillers.

He said a precision planter was more benefit than using a drill, especially in the first year, by an average of four bushels an acre. Pennington said precision planting also did a better job of controlling DON. He said a spacing of five inches gave approximately 10 bushels more per acre than the industry standard of 7.5 inches and wide row planting will reduce yields. However, wider row spacing does result in more seeds per head.

The guest speaker said start phosphorus is very important to yield development. Pennington said one of the things that stood out the most from their study is the results were highly variable both from year to year and farm to farm.

He said more upright wheat varieties like Kokosing have a more upright canopy and thus potential for higher yield. Pennington noted applying nitrogen in the evening rather than the heat of the day can reduced leaf scorch.

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