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How is Small Grain Doing?

University of Minnesota Extension, Stearns County News
April 8, 2015         
Source:  Dan Martens, Extension Educator
University of Minnesota Extension
Stearns, Benton & Morrison Counties

Release Date:  April 13, 2015

How is Small Grain Doing?
By Dan Martens, University of Minnesota Extension

FOLEY, Minn. (04/08/2015) —Some small grain was planted during the last 10 days of March and some farmers have been planting since then when fields and weather are suitable. There might be some questions about how some of this crop will do. It is amazing how durable seeds and small seedlings can be.

I wrote a couple of weeks ago that germinating seeds and young seedlings might be able to survive temperatures down to the low 20’s. Continued delay of emergence uses more of the energy in the seed. This could mean some sprouted seed runs out of energy before emerging. Some seedlings could be less vigorous. Here’s a little more information from University of Minnesota Small Grains Specialist, Jochum Wiersma.

If scouting fields, check the color of the radicle (first root) and coleoptile (first leaf). A white and firm radicle and coleoptile indicates that the sprout is still viable. If concerned about seed, you can dig up a few seeds, and roll them up in some wet paper towel. Keep it at room temperature. If the seed is viable, sprouts should show up within a day or so.

After winter cereal grain seeded last fall comes out of dormancy, and after spring seeded grain has emerged, stand counts can be evaluated if concerns develop. It is easiest to do stand counts when the crop is in a 2-3 leaf stage since tillers are not visible yet. Wiersma suggests keeping stands with 15 or more plants per square foot (Just over 650,000 plants per acre at this stage of plant growth. There should be plenty of time for plants to tiller; and the crop at this population should be able to reach 85 to 90% of its maximum yield potential.) Here are a couple of ways to evaluate stands:

1. Count the number of plants in a foot of row at several locations in the field. Calculate an average and use the following chart to estimate stand:

Table 1 Plants per foot of row with different row spacings and plant densities per acre. 

Rows Plants per acre x 1 million 
Space   0.8    0.9     1.0    1.1    1.2
    6”     9.2   10.3   11.5  12.6  13.8
    7”    10.7  12.1   13.4  14.7  16.1
  10”    15.3  17.2   19.1  21.0  23.0

So if you plant with a 7-inch row spacing and average 12.1 plants per foot, that would correspond to 900,000 plants per acre (0.9 x 1 million).  In a 6-inch row, 650,000 per square foot would be about 7.5 plants per foot of row, 8.7 plants per foot of row in 7-inch rows, and about 12.4 plants per foot in 10-inch rows.

2. Use a hula-hoop or round circle of stiff wire. Drop it randomly at several locations I the field and use the following table:

Table 2 Adjustment Factors to multiply the number of plants counted in a hoop and convert to number of plants per acre.

Diameter  Multiply by
30”        8,900
32”        7,800
34”         6,900
36”         6,200
38”        5,500

So with a 36” hoop, counting 105 plants would calculate to be about 650,000 per acre (105 x 6,200).

Our normal seeding rate for oats would be about 80 pounds per acre – assuming about 32 pounds per bushel and 16,200 seeds per pound. This would be about 28 seeds per square foot and 1.2 million seeds per acre. Planting about 113 pounds of spring wheat per acre with 60 pounds per bushel and 14,000 seeds per pound would also result in about 28 seeds per square foot and 1.2 million seeds per acre.

Please make SAFETY a priority in all your spring work plans.  


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