This week while checking some of the winter wheat at the Dakota Lakes Research Farm, I dug up a winter wheat plant whose first node was detectable. The discovery surprised me. I was, however, standing in the SDSU Winter Wheat Variety trial and must have happened onto a very early variety. Most of the area’s winter wheat crop appears to be in the Feekes 4-5 growth stage. During Feekes 4 growth stage, the leaf sheath, which is the part of the leaf that wraps around the stem below the leaf blade, begins to lengthen. The wheat plant becomes more erect or upright during Feekes growth stage 5.

Soon winter wheat will convert from vegetative growth to reproductive growth. This will have happened when the plants reach Feekes growth stage 6 or when the first node is detected in the main stem. The period prior to this change is an important time.

 Producers should take some time to scout their winter wheat fields now.  Taking some time to evaluate weeds, disease and possible nitrogen needs is important. Walking winter wheat fields in this area I have noted koschia, cheat grass, tansy mustard and other winter annuals. I have looked closely for diseases especially in fields planted no till into standing wheat residue. To date I have not found too much disease, however the winter wheat had a lot of new leaves when I last checked it. It is possible that new leaves could develop disease symptoms in the near future (by the time this article is published).

 There is some variation in winter wheat fields across the area. Some fields were planted late and are just now filling in. Some fields appear to have some areas of winterkill where residue was pushed down or water accumulated. However there are a lot of fields that, thanks to the long fall in 2016, are very thick looking. Plants have up to 4 or 5 tillers per plant in these fields. This reminds me of last year when many fields had numerous tillers due to a long fall in 2015 and timely rainfalls. These thicker fields have the potential to develop a lot of heads or they could go through some type of heat or moisture stress and abort some of these tillers. Either way these tillers are utilizing nitrogen as they grow. This is a good time to assess the crops nitrogen needs. Fertilizer recommendations for wheat are 2.5 lbs. nitrogen per bushel yield. This means that a 70-bushel crop of wheat will require 175 lbs. of actual nitrogen. When calculating crop nitrogen needs, remember to deduct the soil test nitrogen and applicable legume credits (soybeans and peas=40 lb. N credit) for the previous crop. Nitrogen is the building block for protein content in grain. In crops that exhibit potential, growth stage Feekes 4-5, prior to head initiation, is a good time to add nitrogen. For more information go to iGrow Wheat.

 Extension Calendar:

2017 Pasture Bugs N Grubs: Watertown-April 25, Oacoma-April 26, Rapid City -April 27th. Go to for more information.

 South Dakota State University, South Dakota counties, and USDA cooperating. South Dakota State University adheres to AA/EEO guidelines in offering educational programs and services.

Ruth Beck

SDSU Agronomy Field Specialist

412 West Missouri Ave.

Pierre, SD 57501