Winning with wheat
Chuck Nelson and his sons, Jason and Aaron, have had good luck with hard red spring wheat.
They’ve produced 16% protein wheat that has averaged 100 bushels per acre, and not just once. The Thompson, N.D., farmers have had several 90- to 100-bushel-per-acre wheat crops with 14% to 16% protein in recent years.
One key to their success is split fertilizer applications. In the fall or spring, they apply urea or anhydrous ammonia according to soil test results. They add starter fertilizer with the seed, and stream on 10 to 20 gallons per acre of 28-0-0 liquid fertilizer when the crop is in the 4-to-5-leaf stage. Seven to 10 days later, they apply another 10 to 20 gallons per acre of 28% liquid nitrogen. They topdress on cool days, in the evening, at night or when cool weather and rain are forecast.
“We think the first shot helps us with yield, and the second boosts yield and protein,” Chuck says.
When pushing wheat for both yield and protein, it’s important to have the right varieties. They need to have high yield and protein potential, and strong straw that doesn’t lodge. The Nelsons, who sell seed, get an early look at varieties because they set aside land for plot trials and demonstrations. “The genetics are great today,” Chuck says. “They can do it.” He especially likes Limagrain’s Albany and Iguacu for their farm.
The Nelsons don’t claim to have all the answers to growing profitable wheat. Each variety takes slightly different management. They are constantly learning and fine-tuning. Sometimes there are surprises — like last year, when it was dry later in the season. The crop didn’t use all the N they had put on, but the N didn’t show up in fall soil tests as carryover.
“So where did it go, and how can we hang on to more of it in the future?” Chuck asks. “We’re trying to figure that out.”
You can bet the Nelsons, who have a way with wheat, will eventually figure it out.
• Red River Valley farm grows16%-protein wheat averaging 100 bushels an acre.
• Split fertilizer applications are one of their production keys.
• Extra investment of time and money in wheat has paid off in yield and protein.
This article published in the March, 2014 edition of DAKOTA FARMER.
All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2014.
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