• Agronomic Insights
  • Jun 14, 2021

In-Season Strategies to Help Maximize Wheat Performance

Close up of wheat crop.
You’ve selected your variety and it’s in the ground. Now, what steps can you take to maximize the performance of your wheat? Unlock the next level of profit potential with these in-season management considerations.

Understand and Utilize Fungicides

Generic fungicide applications are common in wheat, but opportunities exist to make more specific selections that are better suited for your variety to enhance results. At our Answer Plot® sites, we’ve been testing fungicide applications on wheat for several years and have found there is a significant difference by variety on how products respond to a fungicide.
Through our Answer Plot testing and yield results, we’re able to determine response-to-fungicide (RTF) scores for various wheat varieties, accounting for different growing conditions and geographies. RTF scores indicate the impact a premium fungicide application will have on a crop’s performance. Varieties with a higher RTF show significant differences when a premium fungicide is applied at herbicide timing versus using a generic product, while the same application may not make as much of a difference for a variety with a low RTF. Understanding where your variety sits on the spectrum will help uncover opportunity for enhancement.
Since many growers currently use generic fungicides, we took a look at the differences in performance versus premium fungicides. The results clearly indicated that high-RTF wheat varieties show a significant benefit when a premium fungicide is applied compared to a generic. In fact, all high-responding varieties tested showed an average response of 3.3 bushels/acre when a premium fungicide was used compared to a generic product.* Premium fungicides go beyond basic disease control to help keep plants photosynthesizing under stress and increase growth efficiency. 

Get Strategic With Nutrition  

The nutritional nuances of wheat are largely dependent on variety, so we studied these variances at Answer Plot locations as well, looking for optimization opportunities. Wheat varieties are often bred for performance across variable environments, so we narrowed our focus to uncover the standouts. As a result, we identified hearty varieties that can perform on tougher soil conditions with less water, less nutrients and less ability to root. We also identified those that respond highly to good organic matter, nice rooting depths and good moisture and nutrient availability to deliver outstanding yields.
The largest indicator of these characteristics? Response-to-nitrogen scores (RTN).
Knowing the RTN of your variety can help you make management decisions once your seed is in the ground. For example, if the variety has a low RTN, it’s likely best to stick to your average nitrogen plan, as extra investment won’t make a large enough impact to make it worth it. On the other hand, if your variety has a high RTN, you can start with your average nitrogen plan, but then come back to those fields with a nitrogen topdressing to really punch up your ROI potential. When tested at our Answer Plot locations, the average yield increase across all varieties was 3 bushels/acre. However, across medium- and high-responding varieties, the average was 4.6 bushels/acre. High-responding products alone had an average response of 6.8 bushels/acre.*
Our response-to scores also allow you to make decisions based on your specific goals. Whether your primary focus is to maximize yields or to grow for high protein content, we have response scores and recommendations tailored to each. Talk with your trusted advisor about your specific goals and how you can take advantage of Answer Plot and response-to data to manage your wheat to its fullest potential.

Prioritize Your Inputs

Monitor the conditions of your fields closely and invest your inputs where they can really make an impact. Good looking fields with the most biomass are the ones with the most yield and ROI potential. For these fields, consider next-level management details, such as:
  • Topdressing or sidedressing your fields to maximize plant nutrition, especially on high-RTN varieties.
  • Tissue testing to understand how well your plants are taking up nutrients and to identify micronutrient deficiencies. The NutriSolutions® App is a convenient tool that can help you quickly identify hidden nutrient needs before yields may be compromised.
  • Pay attention to response-to scores for fungicides and nitrogen to make applications tailored to your specific wheat variety and goals.
In less-than-ideal fields, know what you can realistically fix and focus your resources there. For example, foliar nutrient applications can make a significant difference if you detect deficiencies. The advanced foliar MAX-IN® line of micronutrients is designed to deliver nutrients through postemergence applications and can be added in tank mixes with glyphosate and other herbicides. Plus, all MAX-IN brands contain CornSorb® technology that dramatically enhances penetration for greater nutrient availability and utilization. If you find any signs of disease, take steps to eradicate it quickly to prevent any major damage. Keep in mind, the wheat life cycle is very fast so you have to act quickly, but these actions can help preserve yield potential in fields where it may be limited.

Plan Ahead For Crop Year 2022

While variety selection and planting have long since passed for this spring wheat season, it’s never too early to start strategizing for next year’s acres. Keep these important factors in mind as you begin planning.
  • Variety Selection: Selecting a variety that matches the characteristics of your ground is a critical step toward success. Consider factors like soil conditions, disease prevalence and response-to scores. Then, take a look at performance data and talk with your trusted advisor to make the right selection for every field.
  • Seeding: For wheat, precision seeding hasn’t always been emphasized. After all, the more seeds in the ground, the more yield potential, right? Turns out, that’s not always the case. Answer Plot data suggests that overpopulating seeds actually causes some yield and protein reductions because you end up with too much plant material and not enough grain. Overpopulation can also lead to lodging issues and increased disease prevalence. In many cases, reducing population helps improve overall wheat performance. To determine the best seeding rate for your variety, take a look at its Response to Population (RTP) score. 
Current research and advanced technology are making it possible to get more from every spring wheat acre. Your locally owned and operated WinField United retailer is also available to help you consider your options and maximize the ROI potential of your crop.
*Based on 2020 WinField United Answer Plot data at five locations that evaluated all high responding wheat products, including CROPLAN®, experimental varieties and other brands.
All photos are either the property of WinField United or used with permission.

© 2021 WinField United. Important: Before use always read and follow label instructions. Crop performance is dependent on several factors many of which are beyond the control of WinField United, including without limitation, soil type, pest pressures, agronomic practices and weather conditions. Growers are encouraged to consider data from multiple locations, over multiple years and to be mindful of how such agronomic conditions could impact results. Answer Plot, CROPLAN, NutriSolutions, MAX-IN CornSorb, and WinField are trademarks of WinField United All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

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