Utilise early nitrogen to maximise feed wheat potential

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17 February 2022, UK: Early nitrogen applications have been shown to boost winter wheat yields. With growers looking to mitigate the impact of high fertiliser prices, adopting an approach that looks to boost use efficiency is key. 

It is accepted that high yielding feed varieties are good at converting nitrogen into grain yield, but that can be further enhanced by making sure the crop has sufficient nutrition throughout the key growing periods. Experience and trials have shown that applying a dose of nitrogen before stem extension has been valuable for maximising tillers, a key foundation for boosting yield potential. 

The value of getting a well-timed, early application on once conditions are right is visible in the field. In 2021 we saw good levels of moisture around the first application timing which had reasonable crop uptake, but then the cold, dry April limited uptake of later applications. 

Getting the first application on early gives you the opportunity to adapt your later applications according to the crop condition and weather conditions. If looking to maximise use efficiency, a little and often approach is best to minimise losses, hence why in most situations we would suggest a 3-split programme. If looking to cut back total N this season to mitigate high prices, it would be advisable to not lose the first application. 

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Application splits: App 1 BBCH 29, App 2 BBCH 30/31, App 3 32-37

GLEAM is a variety that builds yield from high numbers of smaller ears, coupled with a high TGW which highlights the requirement for attention to detail from the off. Feeding high tillering crops early allows them to express full potential, and ultimately making sure you are getting the most from each unit of N applied

explains Matt Bull, seeds technical expert.

The first N application in wheat will typically target mid-tillering (GS25), ideally when conditions are warm enough to facilitate crop growth above and below ground. This will help facilitate tiller potential and retention coming out of winter. This may be particularly valuable for later drilled crops which may not produce target plant numbers

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