Wheat Production Considerations

Wheat Production Considerations

wheatVariety Selection

Variety selection is one of the most important decisions in small grains production. Growers should choose varieties with a high yield potential, good disease resistance and high test weights.

Table 1 shows excerpts from the UGA, 2012-2013 Small Grains Performance Test for wheat at Tifton, GA.

Wheat Varieties 13


Wheat, rye, and oats grown for grain should be planted into a well prepared seedbed or, if using a no-till drill, may be directly planted without tillage. Small grain roots can be easily inhibited by hardpans or plow layers, so deep tillage may be necessary if hardpans exist in a field.

The optimum time to plant small grains for grain production in North Florida is November 7 – December 15. It is important to plant full season varieties in the early part of the range to ensure the crop receives enough cool weather to properly vernalize. Insufficient vernalization will reduce seed head formation. Additionally, do not plant early season varieties at the beginning of the planting window as they may head out too early and be damaged by a late frost.

Seeding Rate

Seeding rates for various small grains are similar, however there are large differences in how much a bushel of each crop and variety within a crop, weigh.

The old rule of thumb was to plant wheat at two bushels per acre. However, because of the major differences in seed weight among varieties, it is better to plant based on the number of seeds per square foot.

The recommended rate is to plant 30-35 seeds per square foot. If you are using a grain drill with six to eight inch row spacing, this would be 18 – 23 seeds per foot of row, in order to plant 30 seeds per square foot. The optimum planting depth is between 1.0 and 1.5 inches. Seeding rate should be increased by ten to 15 percent if planting in December.

Row Width

Seeds per square foot






Seeds per linear foot





















Adapted from 2013 Alabama Winter Wheat Production Guide


Nitrogen (N) is a key nutrient for grain production. A pre-plant application of 20-30 pounds N per acre followed by 70-90 pounds applied around Feekes-3, which generally occurs between the last week of January and first ten days of February, produces good yields. (Feekes is a scale of wheat development used to describe growth stage of the wheat crop.)  On sandier soils it may be beneficial to use split applications, applying 60 pounds of N in late January, followed by another 40-60 pounds in mid to late February.

Late applications of N (stem elongation or later) generally do not increase yield, but can lower test weights and increase foliar disease. Total N applications over 120 pounds per acre have not been shown to be beneficial and can increase lodging, reduce grain quality, and delay maturity.

Sulfur (S) applications may increase yields on sandier soils, where S is not as available. Top-dressing 15-20 pounds per acre with N should be adequate.

Phosphorous (P) and Potassium (K) are essential for high grain yields. A soil test is the most accurate method to determine P and K requirements. The majority of plant uptake for these nutrients occurs early in the plant’s development, therefore, it is important that these nutrients be applied at planting.

Lime should be applied prior to planting to achieve the target pH of 6.0.

Weed Control

Planting into a weed-free seed bed is essential to establishing a stand of small grains. The best way to accomplish this is with tillage or burn-down herbicide applications. Additionally, there are several herbicides that can be used once the crop has emerged, but most must be applied early in the season, before jointing occurs.

Wheat and other small grains can be injured by some herbicides, if they are not applied during the correct growth stage, or at the correct rate. See the table below for the effectiveness of various herbicides on winter weeds.

Wheat Herbicides 13

Feekes Scale

The Feekes scale of wheat development is a common tool used to describe the growth stage of a wheat crop. Adapted from University of Kentucky Ag Extension. See below.

Feekes Scale

Download a printer firendly, pdf version of this article:  13 Wheat Production Guide For additional information, see the UGA Wheat Production Guide or contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Agent.

Cool Season Forage Planting Decisions

Cool Season Forage Planting Decisions

Winter Grazing Cows

Cool season forages are the highest quality feed that can be grown on the ranch in the Southeast.

Doug Mayo, Jackson County Extension & Ann Blount, UF/IFAS Forage Breeder

Cool season forages have long been the very highest quality feed that can be grown on the ranch for winter livestock supplementation in the Southeast.  Land preparation, seed, and fertilizer costs have risen to the point that ranchers should be very selective to ensure the type of cool season forages used fit their management system, and that the varieties of seed purchased have been tested in the region, for performance and disease resistance.

Forage Species

There are a number of choices as to the type of annual cool season forages to grow.  There is no single best choice, but blends can be used to provide longer seasons of grazing, and also some protection against variable climate and weather conditions.  Within each forage species, there are even specific varieties that offer a range of production outside the averages provided in the charts to follow.  Cool season forages are most productive when planted on tilled land set aside for annual forage crops, or following warm season row crops, immediately after harvest.  While the majority of cool season forages are grown for grazing, they can also be used to make excellent quality hay and silage, which may be an alternative for crop land without fencing, or not convenient for animal grazing.

Small Grains

Small grains, such as oats, rye, triticale, and wheat offer rapid growth, vigorous growth and early grazing after planting.  Most small grain varieties have been developed for grain production; however, there are forage types that are recommended in the guide that follows.  Because they are a large seeded crop, small grains should be planted 1-2” deep, and are most productive when planted on a prepared seedbed with a drill.  Small grains grown for hay or silage have greater risk of disease, and should be scouted and treated as needed using labeled pesticides.

small grain comparison

Ryegrass & Brassicas

Ryegrass and the brassicas are small seeded cool season annual forages with wide adaptability to Florida soils.  Ryegrass provides high quality forage and is excellent for grazing, hay, or silage.  The brassicas:  turnips, kale, and rape are actually winter vegetables that provide rapid growth for quick, but limited grazing.  Ryegrass and turnips can be planted with a drill, cultipacker seeder, or broadcast and lightly covered, and can even be planted with a no-till drill or aerator in dormant sod.

Ryegrass & Brassica


Cool season legumes are small seeded plants that do not require nitrogen fertilizer, and will provide some residual nitrogen for warm season crops that follow.  Legumes generally require higher soil pH than perennial grasses. Legumes do require specific inoculants or bacteria that produce nitrogen on their roots.  Most commercial legume seed comes coated or pre-inoculated, but some need the inoculant mixed with seed just prior to planting.  Legumes can be overseeded into dormant perennial grass pastures, or planted in blends with small grains or ryegrass to improve forage quality and extend the grazing season.  If allowed to mature and produce seed, there are several legume varieties that will reseed. (be managed to come back from seed in future years)  Legumes are sensitive to many of the broadleaf herbicides used in pastures, so you may be forced to decide which is more valuable, a weed free pasture or the legumes.

Legume ComparisonCool Season Forage Planting Guide

Printer Friendly Version of this Article: 
13 Florida Cool Season Annual Variety Planting Guide


References and sources of more information:

UF/IFAS 2013 Cool-Season Forage Variety Recommendations

Alabama Planting Guide for Forage Grasses ANR-0149

Alabama Planting Guide for Forage Legumes ANR-0150

UGA Georgia Forages:  Grass Species

UGA Georgia Forages:  Legume Species


Wheat Management Decisions




We are approaching the time when several key management decisions need to be made for wheat production. Many of these decisions are made based on the growth stage of the crop. At least five scales are used worldwide to describe the growth stages of wheat and other small grains. Probably the most widely used in the U.S. is the Feekes scale.  Florida research has shown that one timely nitrogen top-dress application near Feekes growth stage 3, when tillers are forming, is adequate for optimum yields. This usually occurs during the last week of January or the first 10 days of February. However, small grains can still show response to nitrogen (N) topdressed through stage 5 before the first visible stem node. Generally, top yields can be made with a total of 90-120 lbs./A of N applied between the planting and top-dress applications.

Postemergence herbicide applications should be made when weeds are small unless specifically stated on label recommendations. 2,4-D is the most widely used herbicide in wheat and other small grains. Small grains vary in their tolerance to 2,4-D depending on the crop growth stage. Generally, wheat varieties are the most tolerant, followed by rye and barley, with oats being the least tolerant.  As a general rule, the least injury to the grain crop with 2,4-D can be expected when it is applied from the 3-4 tiller to full tiller stage. Applications made after jointing will result in grain head injury and possible reduction in seed fill.

Visit the reference sites below for more information on wheat growth stages, fertilization, herbicide selection, and general production.