During the last week of August, I was crop scouting for Gerald, who farms 6,000 acres of wheat, barley, oats and canola just north of Wadena, Sask. I was recording the severity of fusarium head blight in one of Gerald’s wheat fields when I noticed something unusual.
It was well into the growing season and shortly before harvest, but the field had an uneven heading or maturation look to it. Some plants appeared to be further along than others, but they were contained within strips that ran in straight lines down the entire length of the field rather than in random patches.
In spite of the fact that Gerald had sprayed a fungicide for fusarium head blight earlier in the season, the disease was heavily present in some of these strips, while in other strips it was hardly noticeable.
When I called Gerald to point out the problem, he wasn’t quite sure what to think of the situation. “Your guess is as good as mine,” he said.
I assessed possible causes such as nutrient imbalance, poor seed quality, and environmental damage, but they were all ruled out — if any of these were to blame, a patchy pattern would have been the result, not the straight lines I saw in Gerald’s wheat field.
Herbicide burn was also disregarded, due to the fact that the leaves of the plants throughout the crop appeared to be in good shape aside from some leaf disease development.
It was only when I inquired into Gerald’s seeding methods that spring that I began to zero in on the root of the problem.
Crop Advisor’s Solution: Wheat irregularities caused by different seeding depths
When I asked Gerald about his seeding methods that spring I began to clue in on the source of the problem. He said the field had been seeded with two different drills, which had been set at different seed depths.
Gerald admitted that he’d been in a rush to seed the field as quickly as possible at the time, because of heavy rain in the forecast and his worry about not being able to finish the job on time. A drill with a different depth setting had been pulled in from another field to help complete the field.
This seed depth difference accounted for the different stages of plant development within the field, which in turn produced a similar outcome for the fusarium head blight treatment. That’s because fungicide applied to a field that is at inconsistent stages of development when it is sprayed will yield inconsistent results.
Fortunately for Gerald, the fusarium head blight in his wheat crop blended out and there was no yield or grade loss in this field compared to the rest of his farm. The producer was also able to take something away from the incident, as he learned the value of seeding depth consistency and proper seed bed establishment, as well as how one misstep at the beginning of the year can affect the crop for the whole season. This isn’t a mistake Gerald is likely to make again in the future.
Raeanne Denomie is a sales agronomist with Richardson Pioneer Ltd. at Wadena, Sask.