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Notes From Small Grain Workshop

University of Minnesota Extension, Stearns County News
February 24, 2016        
Source:  Dan Martens, Extension Educator
University of Minnesota Extension
Stearns, Benton & Morrison Counties

Notes From Small Grain Workshop
By Dan Martens, University of Minnesota Extension

FOLEY, Minn. (02/24/16) — Regional Extension Educator Doug Holen arranged a Spring Wheat and Small Grains Workshop in Cold Spring on February 17. Doug has done small grains field trials and related educational work for a number of years, including a variety trial near Pearl Lake in Stearns County for a couple of years.

State Extension Small Grain Specialist Jochum Wiersma acknowledged that small grains will always play second fiddle to corn and soybeans in Minnesota. They will probably also fall behind hay crops in dairy and beef areas of Minnesota as well. When financial issues are tough for corn and soybeans, there may be a place for a few more small grain acres. Of course, we can overload small grain markets too. This may also provide a chance for some crop rotation that could be useful to break some weed, insect, and disease cycles. Some people now are following small grain with a second small grain crop for fall grazing or forage harvest, or cover crops where that seems useful.

Holen and Wiersma say their goal is really not to recruit more small grain acres; but where farmers think it makes sense to plant small grains, they want to encourage managing the crop for success as much as we do for corn or soybeans. Small grain genetics have improved significantly. With favorable weather, they figure we could expect 120 to 150 bushel oat yields, 100 bushel rye yields, 80 bushel wheat, and 60-80 bushel barley.

Wiersma named Linkert as a good overall Hard Red Spring Wheat variety. Shelly, a new Minnesota release, looks to be a good replacement for Faller and Prosper. Another U of M variety named Bolles is very efficient in using nitrogen to achieve higher protein levels, maybe in the higher teens, but is more average for yield. The market prefers wheat at 14% protein, but may not pay a premium for wheat higher than 14. Some people might use a variety like Bolles to have high protein wheat to blend with wheat that tests lower than 14. For sandier soils, Wiersma suggested looking at South Dakota varieties. Because SD varieties tend to grow taller, they also tend to root deeper, potentially giving them more drought tolerance.

Holen said all small grains can be planted as early as the soil is suitable for planting to make good use of cooler spring weather. Cooler spring weather with suitable moisture favors strong tillering - which is the key to getting more stems, more heads, and so, more grain. Small grains will do best when planted 1 to 1.5 inches deep. This is important for strong root development. Small grain might do better after soybeans because corn and stalk residues can be a host to diseases that can affect small grain.

Holen says the three keys to success with small grains are: 1) Select improved varieties that fit your situation and markets. 2) Understand the life cycle of the crop related to the life cycles of insect and disease issues. 3) Put inputs where they contribute to success. Split nitrogen applications can be useful on sandy soils. Fungicides have more potential to be useful to small grain crops than for corn and soybeans. Learn to identify weather conditions related to crop stage for specific diseases that drive these decisions. For more information, look on the Internet for “Minnesota Extension Small Grain,” contact Extension ag staff, and work closely with farm store and independent agronomy advisors.


Daniel Martens
Extension Educator, Ag Production Systems
(320) 968-5077
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