Time to Fish or Cut Bait on Winter Wheat


The time has come when farmers with winter wheat need to make the decision to fish or cut bait…manage the crop for grain harvest, or call it a cover crop and move on.  Regional Agronomist with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, Don Nicholson:

“We’ve had so much rain in the late fall, early winter, for those that got the crop in are at wits end right now, some of them are trying to get some nitrogen to the crop to get it to tiller out, and have enough tillers out there to expect a profitable yield.”

But, says Nicholson, some producers have managed to get some nitrogen on wheat, and it shows:

“The crop is responding to it.  when they started you could see plenty of soil down through the rows in the wheat that had been drilled, and the ones that had some nitrogen on it, back in January or early February.   the crop has responded to it, and we’ve had a few sunny days, and not necessarily warm sunny days, but we’ve had some sunny days and the crop has responded to it, the folks that have it, they’ve got to get something out there.  We’ve had so much rain, what little bit of residual nitrogen has probably leached out, the residual sulfur that was there, is probably…if it hasn’t leached completely, its moved lower in the soil profile where this shallow-rooted wheat can’t get to it.

So it’s just getting to be, like you said earlier, a fish or cut bait time, something’s got to happen if they’re going to try to make a crop out of it.”

Nicholson talks about allocation of acres in his area…

“I would say corn acres are going to be up somewhat on the soils where you can expect to make a good corn crop.  Grain sorghum is being talked about more and more.  Several factors with the crop; it’s a little cheaper to plant than corn, lot of folks need a rotation out of soybeans just because of nematode pressure and weed pressure.  There’s a little more talk about grains, corn or grain sorghum, we always have a ready market for local grains, I’d always encourage anybody to break a rotation schedule.

If they’re in the peanut business, or the tobacco business, or even cotton, you can plant some of these grains and hopefully expect at least a profitable yield, but at least break some weed cycles and some nematode cycles.”

As far as shortage of soybean seed, Nicholson says that’s driving some decisions for open acres:

“Group V beans, which are…I’m not going to say there’s plenty of seed, but there’s probably more seed in Group V’s than in IV’s and IIV’s, which the majority of my producers plant.

It’s been a trying 2015, and it looks like it’s going to encroach into 2016, just because of a lack of seed.  Certainly a lot of growers have their favorite varieties, and I’m afraid that ship has already sailed, because some of these varieties that they’re used to planting may not have the seed availability that they need.”

North Carolina Department of Agriculture Regional Agronomist, Don Nicholson.


A native of the Texas Panhandle, Rhonda was born and raised on a cotton farm where she saw cotton farming evolve from ditch irrigation to center pivot irrigation and harvest trailers to modules. After graduating from Texas Tech University, she got her start in radio with KGNC News Talk 710 in Amarillo, Texas.