Thursday, 9 September 2010

Wheat plantings, some thoughts

Start drilling wheat this week, always a dilemma to know how many plants to stick in the round.

In the UK the usual practice was to aim for around 200 plants per meter which would give two to three tillers and 600 plus ears by harvest. Pretty straight forward.

In Ukraine it’s more complicated than that. Tillering capacity is very low. I have had plants in the autumn and spring with two tillers only to watch them disappear in the late spring early summer.

The logical thing would be to plant 600 plus seeds per meter as was the old way but that creates problems of it’s own with dense canopies, leggy plants and high cost.

I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that Ukraine is just not suited to high(er) yielding cereal production and 4t is probably a more realistic target than 5t.

Experts all over say that Ukraine has the potential to produce a great deal more than it currently does. I presume based on the simplistic assumption that yields in western Europe are higher and therefore these yields can be replicated here. I’m not so sure.

I don’t think winter is the problem, I think summer heat is the limiting factor.

I have watched wheat plants over several seasons and the pattern is the same – well established in the autumn, looking good, looking good, winter, plants emerge from beneath the snow and look OK, sun, nitrogen, start looking good again, spring rain, warmer temperatures, looking good, looking really good, looking great, summer heat, looking crap! Ahh! What happened?

I’ll be plumping for 400ppm going up to 500ppm and budget for lower yields, that is until plant breeders start producing varieties suited to commercial production in Ukraine.