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Source: Purdue University news release

Now that corn and soybean harvest are well underway, some Indiana farmers also should be thinking about planting their winter wheat crops, says a Purdue Extension wheat specialist.

Winter wheat, a crop that can help manage fields with drainage issues in the spring and bring in extra revenue, is usually planted directly after fall harvest to allow time for emergence before the plant goes dormant during cold-weather months.

"Wheat is a good option for a number of reasons," Shaun Casteel said. "In the northeast part of the state where poorly drained soils can cause problems in the spring, wheat can be used to reduce the pressure of planting corn or soy across that landscape.

"In the southwest part of the state, there's a long-enough growing season to offer farmers another potential stream of revenue. Farmers can use double cropping and get both beans and wheat in. Wheat also provides a nice break in normal corn to soybean crop rotations."

Casteel said the timing of wheat planting usually depends on three factors: corn and soybean harvest, weather and Hessian fly-free dates.

Since wheat planting follows harvest, Casteel said it's always a good idea to start with as clean a field as possible in terms of weeds, and to correct nutritional deficiencies.

If farmers are planting wheat following corn, the crop residue could be a source of disease for the wheat.

This year, weather conditions have been favorable for Gibberella (also known as Fusarium graminearum in wheat) ear rot of corn in some fields. The fungus left behind in corn residue can transfer to a subsequent wheat crop, where it can cause head scab - a disease that can reduce yields and damage grain quality.

The good news for wheat farmers is that after a flash-drought in parts of Indiana, much of the state has had rain recently.

"Fortunately, most parts of the state got some rain over the last couple weeks, so we're starting to get a little bit of a recharge in soil moisture, at least in the upper portion of the soil," Casteel said. "If we have good soil moisture at planting, the crop will be off to a good start for stand establishment."

Casteel also said farmers need to plant wheat after Hessian fly-free dates, which range from Sept. 22 in northern Indiana to Oct. 9 in southern Indiana.

"It's best to plant after those fly-free dates, or within 10 days or so of that date. The yield potential will likely drop if wheat is planted several weeks after that point. It's a balancing act," he said.

Hessian flies are mosquitolike in appearance and feed on green plant growth, including developing wheat plants.

More information about wheat, including planting considerations and growing season management, can be found in Purdue Extension's Wheat Field Guide, available through Purdue Extension's The Education Store at (ID-448). Copies are $5 each.

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