Time to Plant Spring Grains

April is here, the temperatures are rising and fields are drying out after a fairly mild winter in Vermont. Winter grain stand look healthy and are starting to grow. Spring nitrogen applications should be applied at green-up, which in many cases is now. It’s also time to plant spring grains.

Spring wheat, barley and oats typically make it in the ground the last few weeks of April or first week of May. An early planting, gives us a real jump-start on the growing season and allows more time for the spring grain to grow vegetatively and build a higher yield potential. Here are some things to keep in mind as you get going with your small grain crops this spring.

Plant as soon as the ground is dry enough to prepare and plant. Fertility can be applied before planting, but nitrogen should not exceed 90 lbs per acre to minimize risk of lodging. If soils in are high in fertility, be cautious in any additional applications. Of course, a soil test will help provide the best guidance on what fertilizer the crop needs.

Spring grain planting dates will vary depending on the crop and time of planting. Early planted grains can be seeded at 80 to 100 lbs per acre. However, if planting dates are delayed into May, seeding rate should be increased to 125 or 150 lbs per acre. Increased seeding rates help to compensate for poor tillering and result in thinner stands due to late seeding. Higher seeding rates can also help suppress weed pressure.

Seeding depth of spring grains should be relatively shallow as long as there is adequate soil moisture. Generally a depth of 1 inch places the seed in the warmest part of the soil and will allow for quicker germination in the early spring.

Variety and species selection are hopefully decisions you made over the winter. Generally both are determined by the market you plan to sell you grains too this summer. However, if you are making some late decisions you can refer to our Small Grain Variety Trial reports for direction.

Most importantly, do not delay planting!

Check our website, www.uvm.edu/extension/nwcrops, for our most up-to-date research reports, trial results, grain webinars, and important or helpful information about the COVID-19 crisis. We know farming doesn’t stop for anything and we’re here to help.

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