Wheat Does Not Respond to High Inputs at the Aurora Research Farm in the Dry 2016 Growing Season Bill Cox and Eric Sandsted Soil and Crop Sciences Section – School of Integrated Plant Science, Cornell University
bushel from 2008-2013, high input wheat management became the mantra for wheat production in NY. In addition, wheat yields in NY also increased significantly averaging 64 bushels/acre from 2008-2013 compared with 55 bushels/acre from 2002-2007. Consequently, some growers believed that high input management was solely responsible for the high wheat yields, despite the introduction of newer high-yielding varieties and favorable weather conditions for high wheat yields. Wheat prices have plummeted over the last year with NY growers now receiving less than $4.00/bushel for their wheat. The question that once again arises, as it did in the mid-1980s, “does high input wheat pencil out, if wheat prices remain at $4.00/bushel or lower”? Wheat height was normal but kernel set and/or retention and kernel weight was low in recommended input (left) and high input (right) treatments on a somewhat droughty soil at the Aurora Research Farm in the dry 2016 growing season.
High input wheat, which is characterized by high seeding rates, herbicide application in the fall, splitapplication of N in the spring resulting in higher total N rates, and a timely spring fungicide application(s) was introduced to New York in the 1980s. Known as intensive management of wheat in the 1980s, it was modeled after European wheat management systems, where yields were often twice that of NY wheat yields. As in the 2000s, consultants or farmers from other countries or regions came to NY to share with NY farmers and industry how they grew wheat. We conducted in-depth studies at the Aurora Farm in the 1980s and reported that yields were increased (10-15%) in 3 years but limited in response (2-5%) in 2 other years. More importantly, we found that intensive management of wheat did not pencil out unless prices exceeded ~$3.75/bushel, relatively high prices back in the 1980s. Wheat prices in NY plummeted to $2.80/bushel in 1985 and $2.25/bushel in 1986, which abruptly ended the push to adopt intensive management of wheat in NY until the 2000s. Wheat prices in NY averaged ~$2.80/bushel in 2003 and 2004 and increased to $3.35 in 2005 and $4.00/ bushel in 2006 so high input wheat management was hardly mentioned in NY. Once prices skyrocketed to $6.95/bushel in NY in 2007 and averaged $6.50/
We compared high input and recommended input management in conventional (and organic) wheat at the Aurora Research Farm in 2016, a year characterized by very dry conditions from March through June (6.52 inches total). This article will focus exclusively on comparing high and recommended input wheat in conventional management. Management inputs were detailed in another article in this issue (http:// blogs.cornell.edu/whatscroppingup/2016/09/26/ organic-wheat-looked-great-but-yielded-7-5-less-thanconventional-wheat-in-20152016/). Briefly, high input wheat was seeded at 1.6M seeds/acre, received an herbicide application (Harmony extra) in the fall, a splitapplication of N in the spring (~45 lbs. /acre of actual N at green-up and another ~45 lbs. /acre of actual N at the end of the tillering period in late April) and a timely fungicide application (Prosaro) at the end of May, just before anthesis. In contrast, recommended input wheat was seeded at 1.2M seeds/acre and received a single 60 lb. /acre application of actual N at green-up in late March. We sub-sampled 1.52 m2 areas (8 rows by 1 meter) in two locations of all wheat plots to determine yield components of all treatments on July 5, the day before harvest. The sub-samples were first weighed, and then the spikes were counted. The spikes were then threshed so all the kernels (~20,000 kernels/sample) could be counted with a seed counter before being weighed. From the sub-sample data, we determined spikes/m2, kernels/spike, kernel weight, and harvest
What’s Cropping Up? Vol. 26. No. 5 Pg. 83