Wondering When to Plant Small Grains?

Mar 13, 2024

Planting early has risk even in an El Niño year
Early planting for small grains is “very advantageous for the yield potential of these cool-season grasses,” according to the U of MN Extension experts.
However, there is some risk involved due to the possibility of frost – even with this El Niño winter-that-wasn’t-and-spring’s-here scenario. When the soil reaches 40oF and daytime air temps hit the 60s and nighttime temps drop to 40oF, the spring wheat (or barley or oats) will start germinating and there’s no turning back.
The crop needs to emerge in 8-10 days; there’s no possible return to dormancy so the seed will rot if it’s frostbitten. (Note: Seed treatments are vital when planting early; they add a layer of protection.)
This recently published U of MN Extension article discusses the challenges and considerations in quantifying the risk of early (or earlier than usual) small grains planting. The weather forecasts, and long-term weather trends come into play as well.
This March 11th article from the Extension discusses winter wheat/rye survival. And this archived article from the Extension outlines planting dates and temperature considerations for small grains.
As always, your Federated Agronomist is ready to help you weigh the risks.

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