One common discussion point among 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 prices, 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 bushels per acre 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, increased 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 the 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 the 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 three- and five-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 cafe at

This article was adapted from information released by Nathan Mueller, Extension educator in Dodge County.

For more information or assistance, please contact Aaron Nygren, Extension educator, Nebraska Extension in Colfax County, by phone at 402-352-3821 or email at or visit the website for more regional cropping information.


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