As producers begin to make preparations for fall seeding of winter wheat, one of the decisions to be made is how much seed to plant per acre. Those who may still be planting by pounds or bushels per acre may want to consider a different approach. They may want to set their drill to deliver a specific quantity in terms of seeds per acre as they most likely do for the other crops on their farm.
Why would seeds per acre be preferred over pounds or bushels? The first consideration involves understanding how much difference there can be between seed lots in the number of seeds per pound. This range can be as many as 10,000 to as much as 20,000 seeds per pound. It becomes quickly apparent that each lot planted at 60 pounds per acre would give vastly different plant populations. If the desired stand was around one million seeds per acre, then the first lot would fall far short and the second lot would be about correct.
It is true that wheat has a remarkable ability to produce tillers to compensate for a thinner than desired stand as long as the wheat is planted early enough to permit time to tiller, and as long as weather conditions such as adequate moisture and temperature for tiller production exists. In the fall of 2014, certain areas in Kansas suffered a sudden drop in temperatures (the second week of November) which put the wheat into dormancy and stopped most growth and tillering until the following spring. Wheat stands that were too thin to begin with never had enough time for the important fall tiller production to produce top yields.
A second example of how planting seeds per acre can benefit producers is a reduction in seed cost. A seed lot with high seeds per pound would not require nearly as much seed to attain the desired plant population. If the producer is planting certified seed, the cost savings can be significant.
Many certified seed growers can provide the seeds per pound information to their customers and many labs who do wheat seed germination testing may also be able to provide these figures for a producer planting his own seed. With a little patience and a good accurate scale, the producer may himself determine the seeds per pound for his own wheat seed.
Written by: Stan Schield, Montezuma, KS
Featured Image by: Lynn Woolf, 2013 Winter Wheat Crop: Month 1, From Sand Creek Blog