Considering Growing Wheat in Wide Rows?

Growers may be interested in wide-row wheat production due to reductions in equipment inventory (lack of grain drill) and to allow intercropping of soybean into wheat. With funding from the Ohio Small Grains Marketing Program and the Michigan Wheat Program, we’ve conducted several wide-row wheat trials.

How much is wheat yield reduced when planting in wide rows compared to narrow rows? In most instances, wheat yield is greater when grown in narrow row width (7.5-inch) compared to wide row width (15-inch). Yield reductions associated with wide row wheat production ranges from 0% to 15%. In wide-row wheat, we tend to see more head-bearing tillers per foot of row compared to narrow-row wheat. This suggests that under some conditions, increased tillering in wide-row wheat may compensate for lower initial plant population per unit area. The level of yield reduction associated with wide row wheat production varies among wheat varieties. Therefore, variety selection is important when growing wheat in wide rows. Annually, a wide row wheat variety test is performed at two locations in Ohio. Variety information for the Ohio Wheat Performance Test Wide Row Evaluation can be found at:http://www.oardc.ohio-state.edu/wheattrials/       

What is the ideal seeding rate for wide-row wheat?

An on-farm trial was conducted at three locations in Fulton County during the 2013-2014 growing season and one location during the 2014-2015 growing season. The “standard practice” of wheat grown in narrow rows at 2.0 million seeds/acre was compared to wheat grown in wide rows at 1.0 and 1.5 million seeds/acre. Averaged across site-years, wheat grain yield was 81.7 bu/acre when grown in the standard practice of 7.5-inch row width at 2.0 million seeds/acre.  Compared to the standard practice, average yield across seeding rates was reduced by 15% when grown in 15-inch row width. When wheat was grown in 15-inch row width, there was no difference in yield between the 1.0 and 1.5 million seeds/acre seeding rates. This indicates that greater than 1.0 million seeds/acre may not be necessary to maximize yield of wheat grown in 15-inch row width.

With fewer plants per acre in wide-row wheat production, can nitrogen application rate be reduced?

No. Although fewer plants are recommended in wide-row wheat production (approximately 1.0 million seeds/acre) compared to narrow row wheat production, do not change nitrogen application rates.  Agronomic optimum nitrogen rates are the same regardless of row width.  

Wide Wheat Row Management Tips:

  • Choose a variety that is high-yielding and resistant to major diseases such as powdery mildew, Septoria and Stagonospora blotches, and head scab.  See http://www.oardc.ohio-state.edu/wheattrials/ for the Ohio Wheat Performance Test Wide Row Evaluation.
  • Plant wheat as soon as possible after the Hessian fly-free date.
  • A seeding rate of approximately 1.0 million seeds/acre is recommended.
  • Do not change nitrogen application rates.
  • Weed control is very important in wide-row wheat production.
  • Changing row spacing will change the microclimate within the wheat canopy, and this could affect disease development. Scout fields for foliar diseases and use the scab forecasting system (http://www.wheatscab.psu.edu) to determine whether disease risk is high enough to warrant a fungicide application.

About the C.O.R.N. Newsletter

C.O.R.N. is a summary of crop observations, related information, and appropriate recommendations for Ohio Crop Producers and Industry. C.O.R.N. is produced by the Ohio State University Extension Agronomy Team, State Specialists at The Ohio State University and Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. C.O.R.N. Questions are directed to State Specialists, Extension Associates, and Agents associated with Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center at The Ohio State University.