The Roundup -

County Agent Update


Seeding coming to an end for many farmers in northwest North Dakota, but in six weeks you should go back into the fields.

Crop scouting is an important activity that farmers and agronomist should do throughout early spring and summer. But what about the stuff that can happen underground? Like nutrient deficiencies. Six weeks after planting, you should go out and pull up a few wheat plants. Those plants will be able to “tell” you a lot of what is going on and their overall health. The above ground portions of a wheat plant consists of the main stem, and a variable number of tillers.

A typical healthy wheat plant, at the 4.5 to 5 leaf stage of the main stem, should have a T1 tiller and a T2 tiller. The T1 tiller arises from the base of leaf 1, and is initiated at the 2.5 leaf stage of the main stem. The T2 tiller arises from the base of leaf 2 and is initiated at the 3.5 leaf stage of the main stem. If the plant is suffering stress, at the 2.5 leaf stage of the may stem, the T1 tiller may not be initiated and will not initiate later. The same with the T2 tiller, if the plant is stressed at the 3.5 leaf stage then the T2 tiller may not be imitated and will not be initiated later.

With the absence of the T1 and T2 tiller, it can tell us a lot about the early health of that wheat crop. Seldom is there 100 percent initiation of T1 and T2 tillers in the field, but 90 percent is a reasonable goal. For example, if you go into the field and examine 10 wheat plants, 9 of those plants should have T1 and T2 tillers. If that goal of 90 percent is achieved, then that means the plant health was good during the early stages, there was a good supply of Nitrogen and Phosphorous. If the goal of 90 peercent is not reached, there are questions that need to be asked, problems identified, and corrections made for next year. The T1 tiller may not have been initiated because of being planted too deep, or possibly the seedbed was too hard, or due to Nitrogen or Phosphorous deficiencies. To determine if the seed was planted too deep, the length of the “white zone” is a reliable measure of seeding depth after the soil has settled. Typical Nitrogen deficiencies have yellowing on the lowest leaves. Typical Sulfur deficiencies have the oldest parts (main stem leaves 1, 2, and 3) green and the youngest parts (main stem leaves 4 and 5, and the T1 and T2 tiller) being yellow.


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