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Post-Anthesis N for Extra Protein this Year? (06/24/21)


This 2021 spring wheat growing season has been challenging for lack of a better word. Wheat fields have experienced lack of moisture to full-blown drought, wide ranges of low to high temperatures each day in May, and hot conditions, with several to many days in the 90-100 degree maximums. All of this has resulted in reduced tillers, loss of tillers, reduced head size and, yet to come maybe, poor pollination and small kernel size in the most drought-affected areas. I hope that it is obvious to most that there will be no need for post-anthesis N application this season. There will be plenty of N in the soil and in the plant presently to produce at least market-acceptable protein with no dockage. In areas with substantial soil loss early, it might be prudent to take some plant/leaf samples as directed by the laboratory to make sure that the wheat has adequate N. If adequate N is present at jointing/boot, then no additional N would be necessary for increased protein. If the N blew away, then the plant analysis will show the results and application of ‘the recipe’ might be needed to avoid substantial dockage. With most wheat high in protein, no premiums are expected, but dockage might or might not be high. Checking with local elevators may provide guidance for this. They may just be happy to receive some wheat, and blending will take care of the bulk protein expectation of their buyers. My research crew, together with shared recent archived data from Dr. Chatterjee of the NDSU Soils Department and Dr. Joel Ransom, retired from NDSU Plant Sciences, are working towards an active-sensor algorithm from flag-leaf N sensing to direct yes/no evaluation of whether in years with greater yield potential, post-anthesis N application is necessary. I expect some positive outcomes from this research to be published before next growing season.

Dave Franzen
Extension Soil Specialist