One common discussion point amount extension colleagues is the need for a third crop in our rotation to help break up disease, weed, and insect cycles in our corn and soybean rotation.
The crop best positioned to be that third option is winter wheat. Typically though, winter wheat doesn’t get much thought because of past experiences, lower price, lower past yields, equipment needs, and unfamiliarity with growing it.
However, the winter wheat varieties planted in eastern Nebraska today can yield upward of 140 bu/ac under good management and weather, helping close the gap in profitability. If you haven’t planted wheat in several years, consider today’s advanced genetics, many of which were developed through research at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
While the potential for top yields is important, it’s not yield alone that makes winter wheat profitable.
The addition of wheat to your eastern Nebraska cropping system can offer many benefits and value in several different areas such as soil conservation and soil health, pest control, increase revenue, reduced costs, and spreading out your workload.
For soil conservation and soil health, winter wheat offers the ability to more effectively incorporate cover crops, reduces soil erosion and nutrient loss during high risk months of April, May and June, improved soil health, soil structure, and infiltration because of wheat’s root system and residue, possible higher cost-share for terrace and dirt work in July, August, and September as well as better availability of contractors, opportunity to contract with feedlots for manure application in summer when compaction is less of a concern, and possible higher USDA CSP ranking score for planting wheat.
The benefits of pest control in winter wheat are reduced herbicide cost for troublesome weeds like marestail, waterhemp, and Palmer amaranth by disrupting weed cycles, and the potential for reduced disease and insect pressure by increasing the time between crops of corn and soybeans.
Additional revenue streams are possible with winter wheat such as additional revenue from utilizing or selling the straw, added profit from growing more late summer and early fall forage crops, and higher soybean yields in 3-year and 5-year crop rotations.
Finally, winter wheat is going to have cheaper input costs and helps spread out the workload on the farm by reducing fall harvested acres as well as the opportunity to spread manure earlier in the year.
To take advantage of these benefits, Nebraska Extension is supporting the planting of winter wheat by offering resources for current and future wheat growers in eastern Nebraska. To find these resources, visit the winter wheat café at http://croptechcafe.org/winterwheat/
This article was adapted from information presented by Nathan Mueller, Extension Educator in Dodge County.