Along with corn and soybeans, wheat is one of the top crops in Nebraska. Many Nebraska farmers take advantage of wheat’s unique growing capabilities in order to maximize their land use and profitability.
Nebraska is one of the top ten wheat producing states in the country, and Nebraska farmers have produced as many as 84.28 million bushels in 2007, the same year that saw the greatest acreage of wheat planted in the state at 2.05 million.
In Nebraska, wheat is primarily grown in the western half, although farmers from all across the state plant it in the fall to harvest in the spring, known as winter wheat. The recommended winter wheat planting dates vary across the state. The north and western parts of the state have an earlier planting time, while the south and eastern areas can see the fall planting into later parts of September and even early October. Generally, fall planting of wheat in Nebraska is recommended between September 1st and October 1st.
Wheat is also a popular choice of cover crop in Nebraska. The seed is readily available and relatively inexpensive, and it is easy to establish and fast growing. Planting a cover crop has many advantages. It prevents wind and water erosion, can increase yield, improves soil, and adds or preserves soil nutrients that might otherwise be lost to leaching. Animals may also be grazed on the cover crop before spring planting takes place.
Despite its advantages as a cover crop, however, wheat does use up excess soil moisture, and some agriculture experts caution against growing it as a cover crop in the Nebraska Panhandle, since the average rainfall is less and evaporation rate is generally higher than in other parts of the state and country. As a result, the disadvantages of its use as a cover crop in this area of the state may outnumber the advantages.
Winter wheat benefits from snow coverage in order to prevent winterkill. Studies have shown that a blanket of snow 3 inches deep is sufficient to protect it from the cold, and 4-6 inches of snow cover offers the best winterkill protection.
Fall wheat planting across Nebraska was slowed by rains for a week or two in late September, and while proper timing is key for wheat planting, a moist soil profile is still a welcome change to last year’s dry planting conditions for winter wheat.
At the end of September, the USDA reported that 65 percent of Nebraska’s winter wheat planting was complete, compared with a 72 percent average for the end of September. The moisture improved the overall prospects for Nebraska’s next wheat crop. Overall, the USDA reports 56.52 million acres of wheat planted for 2013-14, up slightly from last year’s 55.74 million acres.
As with any crop, weather conditions have the most significant effect on crop growth, yields, and the planting and harvesting of crops. With the majority of Nebraska’s wheat sown, farmers will wait to see what winter weather conditions will manifest.
United Farm and Ranch Management can provide year-around care for your Nebraska property. If you would like a customized plan for your farm or ranch, please contact a UFARM professional today.