Wheat offers important benefits as ground cover

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wheatfield closeup

By Kim Vance and Katelyn Miller

It’s no secret that the wheat harvest did not go well here in Ohio. The wet weather pushed back harvest and brought yields down, which also brought profits down.

Not to mention that pesky little thing we call vomitoxin.

Making decisions

Now that we are moving into fall harvest it’s time to make the decision of which fields will get winter wheat planted. As a grain farmer, sometimes it seems all too easy to throw in the towel and stick to a corn-soybean rotation to try to eliminate the fear of wheat bringing down profit.

Adding wheat into a crop rotation has plenty of benefits that at the end of the day can mean more than just a cash crop. Having diversity in a crop field and adding a third crop such as wheat into the rotation benefits the corn and soybeans, as well.

Wheat can add a 10 percent yield increase to the following crop so even if you lost a little profit on wheat harvest you could make it back in higher yields the next year. The chance of disease and insect damage could also go down after adding wheat into the rotation. Pests can get used to the corn-soybean rotation and will lay eggs at times when they know that crop will be in the field. Wheat can also be a good cover crop to utilize.

Ground cover

Planting in the fall and allowing the wheat to get a little growth before going dormant in the winter will create ground cover to keep the soil in place when the spring rain starts.

Reducing soil erosion will keep nutrients from entering streams and going into drinking water. Wheat can also help hold onto nitrites like other cover crops. It can be grazed, chopped to be put into the silo, or harvested for grain if there is a good stand.
With wheat, the options and benefits can be endless.

(Kimberly Vance is the district administrator for the Carroll Soil and Water Conservation District. Questions or comments can be sent in care of Farm and Dairy, P.O. Box 38, Salem OH 44460. Katelyn Miller is an agronomic/natural resource technician.)

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