Topdressing Time

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By Angela R. Post, Small Grains Extension Specialist

It is wheat topdressing time in North Carolina! I have been out across the state taking a look at wheat fields and visiting with farmers at field days. The earliest maturing varieties are starting to stand-up and their growing points are moving up off the crown. Based on my estimations, and the weather outlook, we are about 10-14 days away from the first varieties being jointed (Growth Stage 30/Feekes 6). For those who are planning to split nitrogen, the window to allow for that practice is quickly closing. I have already applied the first topdress on all research plots across the state and this season we applied about 40% of the total topdress in the first application. For us this was 45 lb N/A. In about a week we will make our way around again to apply the remaining 75 lb N/A for our final topdress. If you have not applied an initial application of nitrogen, your wheat may be starting to look yellow and some of the lower leaves may even be turning brown. The weather conditions are excellent for nitrogen uptake and utilization right now, so I encourage growers to begin making their applications, or start heading out with final topdress if an initial application is complete. You will not slow wheat down by withholding topdressing, you will only lose important fall tillers. The heating units we are accumulating everyday means that wheat is in a fast growth state, and waiting on nitrogen applications will limit overall yield potential. If you have questions about the timing or the amount to apply to maximize your wheat yield, please reach out to your local county agent.