2014 Small Grain Variety Trial Results Now Available

August 13, 2014 in Uncategorized

The University of Delaware’s 2014 Small Grain Variety Trial reports are now online: http://extension.udel.edu/ag/field-crop-resources/variety-trials-corn-hybrids-small-grains-soybeans/

Small Grain Herbicide Update: Glory Herbicide Registered for ALS-resistant Chickweed Control

November 7, 2013 in Uncategorized

Growers in Delaware with ALS-resistant chickweed may be interested in the recent approval of Glory Herbicide.  To learn more, follow this link to an article written by Mark VanGessel, Extension Weed Specialist, UD:  http://extension.udel.edu/weeklycropupdate/?p=6438 

Suggestions For the 2013 Small Grain Planting Season

October 3, 2013 in Uncategorized

Planting Dates

Small grain planting has begun in Kent County. A few growers have already planted barley and are getting ready to plant winter wheat. Past research has shown the optimal planting dates in Kent County are October 1-10 for barley and October 8-22 for wheat. Planting small grains too early can lead to excessive growth that leaves plants susceptible for cold injury. Other early planting risks include being more attractive to aphids (which can vector Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus) and Hessian fly damage. Planting too late does not give small grains enough time to form fall tillers and adequate root systems prior to winter. Fall tillers are important as they are responsible for producing a majority of the grain. While a warm fall or early winter will be more forgiving to late planted small grains, using the suggested planting dates above sets the crop up for maximum yield potential.

TIP:  The Hessian Fly free dates in Delaware are:  October 3 (New Castle County), October 8 (Kent County), and October 10 (Sussex County). Another way to determine the optimal planting date for wheat is to use the expected first frost date which is October 15 in Kent County.  Wheat planting should occur one week prior to and after this date (October 8-22). 

Seeding Rates & Plant Stands

Achieving an optimal plant stand should also be a high priority.  The goal is to have a final stand of 22-25 wheat plants per square foot.  Therefore, a seeding rate of 30-35 seeds per square foot, which roughly equals 1.3-1.5 million seeds per acre, is recommended. Seeding rates will need to be adjusted upward for later plantings.  Additional considerations which may need an increased seeding rate include planting method (broadcast versus drilled) and tillage practice (full tillage, minimum tillage, or no-till).  Adjust the seeding rate so that you achieve 22-25 plants per square foot.  Barley seeding rates should also be 30-35 seeds per square foot with a final plant stand of 26-28 plants per square foot when seeded during the optimal planting date.  The same adjustments concerning wheat planting will need to be considered for barley planting.  Below is an example of how to covert square foot to row foot:

Example 1.  If the goal is 35 seeds per square foot, then how many seeds in a row foot with six inch drill spacing?

6 inch drill spacing multiplied by 12 inches equals 72 square inches of area

72 square inches of area divided by 144 inches in a square foot equals .5 square foot per row foot.

35 seeds per square foot multiplied by .5 square foot per row foot equals 17.5 seeds per row foot.

The answer is 17.5 seeds per row foot with a 6 inch drill.

Use your desired seeding rate and drill spacing to convert to seeds per row foot.

TIP: If broadcast and incorporating, using a homemade square foot using ½” PVC works well.  You will need four 90 degree elbows and roughly 48” of pipe.  Alternatively, this same device can be used to measure combine harvest losses for corn, soybeans, and wheat.

Residue Management

A common rotation for our area is corn-wheat-soybeans or corn-barley-soybeans.  Special consideration should be given to seeding small grains after corn, especially in 2013 due to the high corn yields. High yields typically meant plants were healthier with additional residue to deal with.  Residue management has become the focus of equipment manufactures as many growers have transitioned over using less tillage to do the same job.

Growers have a few options to respond to high residue situations.  The first option is to do nothing and no-till.  This requires heavy drills specifically designed to seed into high residue situations.  This will require excellent down pressure and good sharp blades.  The seeding rate will likely need to increase to meet the optimal plant population.  No-till may not be the most suitable choice when seeding wheat after the optimal seeding date due to the cold soils.

The next type of practice is using reduced tillage, often achieved using vertical tillage equipment (Great Plains Turbo-Till, Case 330, Landoll 7400, etc…) to prepare the seed bed.  This is not meant to be an all-inclusive list as there are numerous vertical tillage equipment manufacturers.  The aggressiveness of tillage varies between manufacturer and model (i.e. A turbo-till does not work the same as a Landoll 7400).  Either way, the goal is to chop or size the residue so that seed can be placed into the soil in a uniform manner.  This may require several passes with the same tool to achieve a suitable seed bed.  Hooking a rolling basket type finisher to the back will help to level the soil which further improves seed bed preparation.

Last, conventional tillage will completely invert or mix the residue into the soil.  Most commonly a chisel plow, disk, and finisher are used to prepare the seedbed.  The advantage to this system is the lack of residue, a smooth seedbed, and warmer soils.  Consequences include over-drying of the seed bed which may result in uneven germination and emergence leading to a reduced stand.  The cost of additional equipment, replacement parts, labor, and extra tractors are all additional factors to consider.

TIP:  No matter which method above is used, the optimal planting depth for wheat is 1-1.5 inches.  Wheat can be planted slightly deeper into moisture during dry periods.  Do not plant deeper than 2 inches due to the delayed emergence.  Conversely, planting too shallow (less than ½ inch) can result in uneven germination and emergence. 


The fall is a good time to apply fertilizer for the small grain (and following soybean) crop.  Soil sample prior to planting (the best is directly after corn harvest to facilitate sampling taking) as long as the ground is not too dry.  This year is a bit of a challenge due to the lack of rainfall during the past month.  Nitrogen (N) should be applied prior to seeding to stimulate fall tillers.  In most cases, 20-30lbs of actual N should be enough though incorporating a heavy residue (carbon) crop like corn can cause an C:N imbalance resulting in immobilization of N which the crop cannot use.  This may require an upward adjustment of nitrogen fertilizer to assure a healthy start for the young small grain crop.  Phosphorus and potassium can be applied at this time according to soil test recommendations. When using poultry manure, be thoughtful about using high rates of manure that can cause lodging next spring.   Choose a short, high yielding variety if using manure.


Getting a small grain crop off to a good start is vital for good yields next year.  Pay attention to planting dates, seeding population, residue management, tillage, and fertility which are important components to maximizing yields.  The road to achieving high wheat and barley yields begin now.

Related Reading:

Small Grain Weed Control in the Fall: http://extension.udel.edu/weeklycropupdate/?p=6406

Using Saved Seed from the 2013 Harvest:  http://extension.udel.edu/weeklycropupdate/?p=6312

Phillip Sylvester, Extension Agriculture Agent, UD, Kent County

Barley and Wheat Seeding Rates

October 4, 2012 in Uncategorized

Seed size can greatly affect the numbers of wheat or barley seeds actually planted.  Even the same variety can vary a couple thousand seeds per pound depending on the year and location grown .  When setting the drill,  it is helpful to know the seeds per pound to determine pounds per acre.  The best way to figure a seeding rate is to use  seeds per sq. ft or seeds per acre.  As a guideline for seeding wheat with a normal planting date,  research has shown 30-35 seeds per sq. ft (1.3-1.5 million seeds per acre) is optimal.    The goal is a final plant stand of 22-25 plants per sq. ft.  Barley, on the other hand, is usually recommended on a bushels per acre basis (2.5 bu/ac). Barley seeding rate should be 30-35 seeds per sq. ft. with a final plant stand of 26-28 plants per sq. ft.   As we move later into the growing season, seeding rates will need to be adjusted higher to account for less fall tillering.  It may be more helpful to convert over to a per row foot basis to calibrate the drill:


Goal is between 35 seeds per square foot

6     inch drill spacing x 12″= 72 sq. inches of area/144 inches sq. ft.=0.5 sq. ft. per row ft.

35 seeds per sq foot x 0.5 sq ft per row ft= 17.5 seeds per row ft.



Thomason, Wade. 2010.  Wheat and Barley Management.  Virginia Cooperative Extension.  Online.  http://www.grains.cses.vt.edu/multimedia2.htm

Barley and Wheat Planting

September 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

With many of the drought damaged corn fields harvested early, small grains planting may begin earlier than normal.  Before seedling barley or wheat, consider some of the factors that may affect early planted small grains.  From Thoughts on Planting Soft Red Winter Wheat Early written by Dr. Richard Taylor, Extension Agronomist, UD:

With corn harvest proceeding much earlier than in ‘normal’ years, many growers could be considering whether to go ahead and plant their wheat or barley crop in the next few weeks. The recommended or suggested planting date varies from county to county based on the Hessian fly-free date. (For more information on Hessian fly see the article by Joanne Whalen “Agronomic Crop Insects – September 7, 2012” in issue 20:25 of the Weekly Crop Update) The fly free dates are Oct. 3 for New Castle County, Oct. 8 for Kent County, and Oct. 10 for Sussex County.

For barley, we have conducted planting date studies in Sussex County comparing early-planted (September 26) barley with a close to suggested planting date (October 7). Our results indicated a fairly consistent 5 percent reduction in yield with September planted barley as compared with the October 7 planting date. Winter weather in the years the study was conducted did not result in significant visual winter injury to the barley so the impact appeared to be more of a general nature. Barley planting was dramatically affected by late planting unlike wheat. Delaying barley planting by just one week to October 15 resulted in a (four year average) yield reduction of over 15 percent and delaying two weeks to October 25 resulted in an over 20 percent yield reduction. Delaying planting barley until November increased the yield potential reduction to over 40 percent.

For winter wheat, experience has to be our guide with respect to planting date. We have evaluated the ideal planting date versus later planting dates but not against a September planting date for wheat. However, we can use both past experiences and basic agronomic knowledge to evaluate the risk involved with early planting wheat.

Since September planting dates are before the Hessian fly-free date for all our counties, we can surmise that the risk of lodging during grain fill will be increased versus planting after the fly-free date. You do need to keep in mind that the fly-free date is based on temperature averages and during warmer than normal falls fly emergence and egg-laying activity can extend past the listed dates. Larval activity can cause lodging, stunting, and yield loss since wheat tillers can be severely injured. In past variety trials, we have seen significant injury and yield reductions on susceptible varieties. Early planting of wheat can increase your risk of an infestation especially if wheat is planted in fields with wheat stubble or in fields next to one with wheat stubble.

For wheat that is planted following dryland corn, the greatest risk this year likely is due to excessive soil residual nitrogen (N); or, if the fall weather is warm and moist, to fall N mineralization from the high levels of nitrate in the dryland corn residue. High fall N availability can lead to excessive growth that will be more susceptible to winter kill or injury if we have a cold, open winter. In past years, we have had many growers asking what they could do about all the excessive top growth that occurs when wheat is planted in September and fertility levels are high. In some areas of the country, the extra foliage is used to graze cattle or sheep but most Delaware farmers do not have this option. The option tried has been to mow off and sometimes remove the excessive top growth. This has at least in part been successful in reducing winter injury but there are significant costs associated with the practice.

Another concern that again depends on fall weather conditions as well as insect populations and a residue of disease inoculum is the development in September planted wheat of disease or insect problems. In particular, barley yellow dwarf virus, which is transmitted in the fall by aphids feeding on the lush growth, can cause more severe injury than spring infections. The lush growth of early planted wheat could be more of an attractant for aphids but certainly will have a longer exposure to the risk of infestation.

All these cautions are not to say that you should never plant wheat or barley before the fly-free date only that you should be aware of the possible consequences and make a decision on when to plant and how many acres to plant from a position of knowledge.


Taylor, Richard.  2012.  Thoughts on Planting Soft Red Winter Wheat Early.  Weekly Crop Update.  Volume 20, Issue 26.  University of Delaware Cooperative Extension.  Online.  http://agdev.anr.udel.edu/weeklycropupdate/?p=4823

Hulless Barley

September 12, 2012 in Uncategorized

Hulless barley has been evaluated in the Mid-Atlantic region over the past decade. Purposes for hulless barley including ethanol production and livestock feed.  Typically, hulless barley has a higher starch content and is a lower fiber grain than hulled varieties.  During times of high feed prices and low milk prices, this can be a real benefit.  Yields are slightly less (est. 80-85%) of hulled varieties, though test weights are higher.  The hulless variety ‘Dan’ can be found in our small grains variety trials for comparison to the typical hulled varieties that are grown in Delaware (i.e. Nomini, Thouroughbred).  Recommended seeding rates are 45-50 seeds per sq. ft. This is higher than hulled varieties which are typically 30-35 seeds per sq. ft.

Suggested Reading:

2012 Small Grain Variety Trials

July 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

The 2012 UD small grain variety trial results are available online at http://extension.udel.edu/ag/field-crop-resources/variety-trials-corn-hybrids-small-grains-soybeans/  Delaware’s barley and wheat trials turned out well, even with the dry weather we experienced.  The new barley variety “Atlantic” is doing well in the trials again this year and looks to be similar to “Thoroughbred”, which also was a good performer this year.  The wheat variety “Shirley” finished at the top in the wheat trials and has been strong over the past few years.  Try to find multiple year and location data which allows you to be more confident when choosing a variety to plant this fall.

Maryland’s Variety Trial Reports:  http://www.mdcrops.umd.edu/wheat/2012MDYieldTrialResults.pdf

Phillip Sylvester, Extension Agriculture Agent, UD, Kent County

Beneficial Insects: Lady Beetles

April 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

Lady beetle larva can be found in small grain fields now.  They are an important beneficial insect that should be tracked while scouting small grains.  They can play an important role in the field by helping to keep aphid populations in check.  A ratio of one per 50-100 aphids can be enough for control.  Aphid populations have been low to moderate in some wheat fields this year.  Read about aphid control in small grains by clicking here.  Be sure to check for beneficial insects including lady beetles when scouting.
Lady Beetle Larvae.  Photo by P. Sylvester.

Lady Beetle Larvae on Wheat Leaf.  Photo by P. Sylvester.

Phillip Sylvester, Extension Agriculture Agent, UD, Kent County

Freeze Injury to Small Grains

March 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

A freeze warning has been issued in Delaware for Tuesday morning between 3am-9am.  Subfreezing temperatures are imminent or highly likely.  While this is not unheard of in March, temperatures this year have been above normal for awhile now.  Going down the road, you can see most crops and plants are about 2-3 weeks ahead of where they would be in a typical year because of the warm temperatures.  This can spell trouble in the spring when freeze events occur after a warm spell.
Freezing temperatures can have a large impact on growing crops.  Small grains, early vegetables, strawberries, and fruit trees are all susceptible to freeze damage.  It’s important to remember that the degree of injury relates to the growth stage the crop is in.  Common sense tells us that the further along the crop is, the stronger the likelihood of damage from freezing temperatures.  Another key factor to keep in mind is that freeze damage is related to length of subfreezing temperatures.   Less damage is likely to occur if temperatures drop below freezing  for only a short period (less than 2 hours) compared to a longer period (more than 2 hours).   
Currently, growth stages in barley and wheat range from jointing to mid-boot in the County.  There are reports of a barley head poking through here and there.  What this means for freeze injury to small grains is that the closer we are to heading, the higher the likelihood of damage occurring.  See the chart below for specific growth stages and temperature interactions:
Figure 1. Temperatures that cause freeze injury to winter wheat at different growth stages. Winter wheat rapidly loses hardiness during spring growth and is easily injured by late freezes (graph adapted from A.W. Pauli).
As you can see, if the crop is at jointing, then temperatures would have to fall to 24 for a two hour period for injury to occur.  Once the crop reaches the boot stage, temperatures would only need to fall to 28 for a two hour period.  It’s possible to have severe yield loss at these stages as the head(spike) is developing within the plant.  A couple of links to help growth stage your small grains:  http://kentagextension.blogspot.com/2008/03/what-growth-stage-is-your-wheat-in-now.html  and http://kentagextension.blogspot.com/2008/04/pictures-of-later-wheat-growth-stages.html  
If freeze damage is suspected, it is recommended to wait at least 4-5 days before going to the field.  Be sure to check the entire field as damage can vary within the field because of micro-climates.  Temperatures near the bay or ocean are sometimes warmer because of moderate water temperatures.  As shown in the tables above, freeze injury at the current growth stages can cause leaf discoloration, damage to lower stem, death of growing point, and an odor.  It is a good idea to split the stem and check the developing head (spike).   The spike should have a crisp, whitish green appearance.  If it is off-white or brown and water soaked in appearance, then freeze injury could be a possibility.  A good reference for identifying spring freeze injury can be found by clicking on the link: http://www.ksre.ksu.edu/bookstore/pubs/c646.pdf

Phillip Sylvester, Extension Agriculture Agent, University of Delaware, Kent County
Shroyer, James P., Merrel E. Mikesell, and Gary M. Paulsen.  1995.  Spring Freeze Injury to Kansas Wheat.  Kansas State University.  Online.http://www.ksre.ksu.edu/bookstore/pubs/c646.pdf

Aphids in Small Grains

November 29, 2011 in Uncategorized

Information on aphids in small grains during the fall.

You should also consider the following factors when making a treatment decision for aphids in small grains. In general, cooler summer temperatures with adequate rainfall followed by a warm, dry fall are conditions that favor aphid development in small grains, especially in early planted fields. Early fall infestations of the green bug aphid (which causes direct damage to small grains as well as vectors BYDV) are favored by cool, late summer conditions. The following link provides good pictures of the major species of aphids found in small grains in Delaware: http://kentagextension.blogspot.com/2007/10/know-your-small-grain-aphids.html.

The main reason one would consider aphid control in the fall (except for greenbug aphid that causes direct damage) is the potential for Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus (BYDV) transmission. In areas where you have seen BYDV in the past, where you are planting early, or you have seen direct damage by green bug aphids, a seed treatment that control aphids (i.e. Cruiser and Gaucho) would be a good control option. Information from Kentucky indicates that planting date is the most important factor determining the intensity of an aphid infestation. If you have a history of aphids transmitting viruses in the fall and you plan to scout for aphids, data from the south indicates that the most important time for controlling aphids to prevent BYDV is the first 30 days following emergence. The second most important time is the second 30 days following emergence. The following link to a fact sheet from Kentucky provides more information on aphids and BYDV in wheat (http://www.ca.uky.edu/entomology/entfacts/ef121.asp).

Information from Joanne Whalen, Extension IPM Specialist, UD in the Weekly Crop Update, Volume 19, Issue 27.  http://agdev.anr.udel.edu/weeklycropupdate/?p=3758