The Basics Of Wheat Production
Farmer's Weekly|September 10, 2021
South African wheat growers have to compete with imports of the grain, which puts them under pressure to maximise production efficiency. Decisions on which cultivar to plant and the seeding density at planting have a major influence on yield, and ultimately profitability. Magda du Toit reports.
Magda du Toit

FAST FACTS

  • Cultivar choice is an important production decision and can contribute to reducing risk and optimising yield.
  • A producer should use good-quality seed and maintain appropriate seeding densities, as the plant population may significantly affect competition among plants as well as weeds.
  • Seeding densities for wheat may vary from 15kg/ ha to 35kg/ha under dryland conditions, and 65kg/ha to 200kg/ha under irrigation.

Knowledge is crucial to success in crop production, and seldom more so than for wheat in South Africa, where growing conditions vary and much of the country’s supply is imported. Producers need to base short- and long-term planning on the latest market and industry information so they can adapt when required to increase profit per hectare.

To succeed, a farmer has to understand his or her specific production area, take note of long-term climate conditions, and keep up with the latest cultivars.

CHOOSING CULTIVARS

Cultivar choice is a key production decision and can contribute to reducing risk and optimising yield. The selection of a cultivar is principally an economic decision, where the producer must find a balance between risk and yield potential. The yield potential of the wheat, in combination with the production area, climate and soil type, is as important as the management of input and production costs.

Cultivars differ in characteristics such as area adaptability, yield potential and stability, agronomic characteristics, as well as tolerance of diseases, pests and aluminium toxicity. New varieties are released frequently, and it is important to understand their characteristics and how they fit into the farm’s cropping system.

Follow these useful guidelines when considering a wheat cultivar:

• Identify the specific production area. This will determine the adaptability and disease profile required of the cultivar.

• Determine the subregion of production. Two factors control the growth period: photoperiod (day length; in other words, the period during which the plant receives sunlight) and vernalisation (the cooling of the seed in winter to enable it to produce flowers). The cultivar must therefore be adapted to climatic conditions such as the length of the growing season, rainfall pattern, temperature, soil water availability at planting, and the first and last frost dates.

• Take agronomic characteristics, such as lodging, shattering, disease susceptibility or tolerance, and grain quality into account when making your decision.

• Base your cultivar selection on reliable long-term data and take note of new, improved cultivars every year, as well as the recommended optimal planting spectrum for each cultivar. Put together a cultivar package that will minimise production risks such as drought, disease occurrence and crop rotation time constraints in your area.

QUALITY SEED

When planting, strive to achieve as high a yield as possible from the seed sown. One of the most effective ways of achieving this is by planting high-quality seed.

Certified seed is the starting point of a successful crop, as well as an important risk management tool. Certified wheat seed offers many advantages over farm-saved seed:

• Varietal purity;

• Traceability, protection and peace of mind;

• A system for the follow-up of complaints;

• Professionally treated seed;

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