Wheat (Triticum) is mostly an annual plant of the Poaceae family and a genus of Herbaceous. Wheat has been one of the most widely grown crops for centuries. Wheat is grown for its grains that are used mostly for baking bread, as well as confectionery and alcoholic beverages (vodka, beer, and other strong drinks). Various types of cereals are produced from wheat: couscous, semolina, bulgur. Besides, wheat crop is used in the production of animal feed. Apart from that, wheat is also widely used in the production of plywood and drywall. 1. What are the types of wheat? Wheat comes in thousands of varieties. This plant has a fairly complex classification, including sections, types and subtypes, as well as about 10 hybrids. According to the sowing time, the following wheat types are distinguished: Spring wheat This type of wheat is sown from March to May, ripens within 100 frost-free days, and is harvested in early autumn. It’s more tolerant to drought than winter wheat and has excellent baking properties. Winter wheat This type of wheat is sown in late summer to mid-autumn and yields early to mid-summer of the next year. It usually provides high yields, but prefers areas with mild climates and snowy winters. Types of wheat also differ by the hardness of the grain into the following: Soft wheat This type has a wider and shorter ear and a shorter or absent awn. It’s high in protein and gluten content, which makes it perfect for flour production. Durum wheat The grains of this type have a rich yellow color and a pleasant scent. It’s mostly used for baking and making pasta. 2. Where is wheat grown? Top wheat producing countries are EU member countries, China, India, Russia, the U.S., Canada, and Ukraine. European Union has produced almost 154 million metric tons of wheat in 2019/2020. In the U.S., almost every state is involved in the production of wheat, with North Dakota, Kansas and Montana being the leading wheat producing states. Use Crop Monitoring in your country to manage your wheat field. 3. What are wheat growing conditions? Light requirements The cultivation of wheat is significantly influenced by the length of daylight hours. The leaves turn green, and the plants bush well with the optimal amount of light. Besides, the plants overwinter better with strong light and lower temperatures. Temperature requirements In terms of tolerance of wheat to temperatures, spring wheat varieties do not have high demands on the amount of heat, unlike the winter ones. The grain germinates at 1 – 2 °C, and 12 – 18 ° C are considered favorable conditions for wheat cultivation. The plants are quite resistant to heat. However, temperatures above 35 °C and the lack of moisture will lead to a decrease in grain quality and yield. Winter wheat is able to withstand frosts down to -17 °С without snow cover and up to -25 °С with the snow. Soil requirements The crop is grown on highly fertile, structural soils, and the optimal soil acidity for wheat is 6 – 7.5 pH. The best soils for wheat are chernozems, podzolic and sod-gley. Low yields are typical for sandy, sandy loam, heavy loamy, and clay soils. Predecessors The best predecessors for wheat are leguminous grasses, legumes, and row crops. Do not sow spring wheat varieties after winter crops. This contributes to the accumulation of crop pests and disease-causing infections. Use Crop Monitoring to identify the best conditions for growing wheat. 4. What are wheat growth stages? Here are the main wheat growth stages. 0. Germination. This stage marks the beginning of seed imbibition and lasts until the coleoptile emerges from caryopsis and penetrates the soil surface. 1. Leaf development At this stage, the leaves of the plant start unfolding. The stage lasts until 9 or more leaves unfold. 2. Tillering This growth phase of wheat marks the beginning of tillering. The stage ends when the maximum number of tillers are detectable. 3. Stem elongation At this stage, the seudostem and tillers erect, first internode begins to elongate, and the top of the inflorescence is at least 1 cm above the tillering node. The stage continues until the flag leaf is fully unrolled. 4. Booting At this stage, the flag leaf sheath extends, becomes swollen, and eventually opens. When the stage ends, the first awns are visible. 5. Inflorescence emergence This stage starts when the tip of the inflorescence emerges from the sheath and the first spikelet is visible. The stage lasts until the inflorescence has fully emerged. 6. Flowering At the beginning of this stage, the first anthers are visible. The stage ends when all of the spikelets have completed flowering. 7. Development of fruit The stage starts when the first grains have reached half their final size and ends when the grain content is milky, and most grains have reached their final size. 8. Ripening The stage starts when the grain content is soft and dry and ends when the grain is hard. 9. Senescence At this stage, the grain is over-ripe. The plant dies out and collapses. Use Crop Monitoring to manage wheat at different growth stages. 5. How to prepare a field for planting wheat? Land preparation for sowing wheat should be aimed at ensuring aeration of the root system, retaining moisture, and removing weeds. Presowing preparation should provide an optimally leveled surface of the soil and seedbed for further seeding, which directly depends on the weather conditions, the equipment you have, the state of the arable land, and the previous crop. The classic step in preparation of the arable land is harrowing and cultivation. Before sowing, the field must have a compacted soil structure and a pre-sowing layer. It is important to carry out fall plowing after harvesting the previous crop to increase the soil’s resistance to moisture accumulation and to reduce the number of weeds and harmful insects. If perennial grasses were cultivated prior, disc plowing of the soil is carried out with an interval of ten days to a depth of 12 cm. 6. When to plant wheat? The time for wheat planting is determined on the basis of the soil and climatic conditions, the growing area, crop rotation in the field, and the technical resources of the farm. For growing winter wheat, the optimal period for sowing is considered the end of September and the beginning of October. If the field operations are carried out at this time, the plant has time to develop, form roots and shoots, and also form resistance to temperature and harmful organisms. However, the dates of the wheat growing season vary depending on the air temperature and soil moisture. Keep in mind that the average daily air temperature during the seeding period should be from 14 to 17 °C. Early sowing is always a risk of infection with harmful organisms because the seeds germinate when pathogens and pests are still active. Use Crop Monitoring to help decide on the best time for sowing wheat. 7. How to plant wheat? The quality of wheat seed is one of the critical conditions for obtaining high yields. Plants grown from large seeds are able to lay the tillering node deeper. And the depth of the tillering node affects the overwintering of plants: the deeper the tillering node is laid, the higher the cold resistance of winter wheat. Besides, plants obtained from large seeds develop a stronger root system, grow faster, are less exposed to droughts, are much less affected by diseases and give a higher yield in result. If it is necessary to use freshly harvested seeds with reduced germination for planting. Before sowing, they should be heated in the sun for 3-5 days or in a grain dryer at a temperature of 45 – 48 °C for 2 – 3 hours. After that, seed treatment is carried out to ensure resistance to pests and diseases. Wheat planting is carried out with row spacing no more than 10 cm in a cross-sowed method. It allows for the even distribution of seeds over the area, due to which the plants develop better and use light, moisture, and nutrients more efficiently. The sowing rate depends on climatic and soil conditions. More dense sowing is used in the northern humid regions. When planting winter wheat, a relatively deeper seed placement is required, in which the tillering node is laid deeper. On chernozem soils and in arid regions, seeds of winter wheat are planted to a depth of 5 – 6 cm. When the upper layers of the soil dry out, the depth of sowing seeds on chernozems can be increased to 8 – 10 cm. In the non-chernozem zone, on heavy clay soils, the usual sowing depth is 4 – 5 cm. Identify field productivity zones in Crop Monitoring to distribute seeds across the field rationally. 8. What are wheat fertilizer recommendations? Wheat grows well on soils enriched with nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. For the production of 30 centners of product, wheat fertilizers requirements will be approximately 90 kilograms of nitrogen, 60 kilograms of potassium, and 25 kilograms of phosphorus. Keep in mind that the dynamics of nutrient consumption also depends on the vegetation phase of the plant. In the initial period of growth, wheat consumes nitrogen, but in small quantities. The situation changes when the plant begins to form ears and additional stems, which increases its nitrogen consumption. But during the period of grain formation, the need for this element is minimized. Phosphorus fertilization is important during tillering and stemming. It is one of the main fertilizers for wheat that plays a significant role in the formation and development of the plant root system, as well as ears. Potassium, in turn, has a direct effect on wheat heading. Potassium increases the resistance of wheat to diseases, affects grain size, accelerates the spread of carbohydrates from the stems to the grain, as a result of which the grain is enlarged. For sowing spring wheat, it is necessary to prepare saturated, fertilized lands, because if the root system of the plant reaches optimal depth, it will be able to use moisture more efficiently and withstand drought better. Fertilization should be determined by the growing season of the plant. During sowing, a smaller part of a mineral fertilizer is applied. And before sowing, the main part of organic and mineral fertilizers is applied. Top dressing is carried out via irrigation during the growing season of wheat. Identify field productivity zones in Crop Monitoring to distribute wheat fertilizers across the field rationally. 9. What is the right type of irrigation for wheat? Wheat grows well under conditions where moisture reserves in the soil contribute to the development of a branched root system. If the plant is given enough water during the early growing season, it will help to form the necessary roots. In the fall growing season, moisture leaves the upper 20 cm soil layer. And already in spring, wheat extracts moisture from almost a meter depth with its roots. As the plant develops, the need for moisture increases. The root system continues to penetrate in depth and breadth to reach places where there is still water. If necessary, the plant will use moisture deeper than a meter. Having a water consumption coefficient of about 100, wheat spends up to 5 – 6 thousand m3 of water on the formation of a high grain yield (50 – 60 c / ha). That is including 4 thousand m3 / ha in the beginning of the growing season in spring. Wheat irrigation is carried out using sprinkler machines after the main plowing (3 – 4 weeks before sowing). The irrigation rate on soils with a low groundwater is 800 – 1200 m3 / ha, and with high groundwater – 400 – 500 m3 / ha. 10. How to protect wheat from pests? Here are the most common wheat pests and the ways to protect the crop from them: Wireworms The larvae of this pest feed on the germinating seeds of the plant. Protection measures: Seed treatment Winter grain mite This pest is known to appear on small grains and grasses, resulting in the puncturing of plant cells as the mites feed. The infested plants do not always die, but produce less forage or grain. This pest mostly appears on young plants on fields with loose, sandy or loamy soils. Protection measures: Optimal soil moisture Army cutworm This pest is active in late fall to early spring. Its larvae feed on the plant and lay more than a thousand eggs, contributing to the outbreak potential of this species and severe yield losses. Protection measures: Selection of resistant varieties Flea beetle This wheat pest causes whitish streaks on plants leaves. The damage is mostly visible when the plants emerge. Protection measures: Spot treatment of the affected rows to control populations Wheat stem sawfly The plants affected by this pest will produce shriveled grains, resulting in lower yield. Protection measures: Selection of resistant varieties Use Crop Monitoring to help manage wheat pest control measures when necessary. 11. How to protect wheat from diseases? Here are the most common wheat diseases and the ways to protect the crop from them: Bacterial leaf streak This disease causes water-soaked, light brown, elongated lesions on the upper leaves of infected plants. Protection measures: Avoiding planting of seed from infected fields Avoiding overwatering Selection of resistant varieties Basal glume rot The rot results in small water-soaked lesions forming on plant leaves. Protection measures: Avoiding planting of seed from infected fields Barley yellow dwarf This disease causes flag leaves to turn yellow and distort. The plants eventually die due to shortened internodes. Protection measures: Control of aphid population Optimal planting time Eyespot This disease affects different parts of a wheat plant, appearing on leaf sheath and gradually spreading to the stem. It causes yellow-brown lesions and a gray fungal growth. Protection measures: Crop rotation Fungicides application Selection of resistant varieties Fusarium head blight This disease results in pink or orange fungal masses that are visible at the base of the spikelet. Infected plants either do not produce seed at all, or produce shriveled and discolored seed. Protection measures: Crop rotation Selection of resistant varieties Fungicides application Powdery mildew This disease manifests itself in the appearance of cottony, white-gray growth on the upper surface of leaves. Protection measures: Selection of resistant varieties Foliar fungicides application Removal of crop debris from field Use Crop Monitoring to help detect changes in plants health based on vegetation to take measures when necessary. 12. When to harvest wheat? The most common technique of wheat harvesting is direct combining. It is used on clean fields with uniformly ripened ears. When winter wheat ripens, key yield indicators are formed. Besides, at this time, there are two phases of grain ripeness: waxy and hard. At the stage of waxy ripeness, the dry matter stops growing. In the hard phase of ripeness, the protein synthesis is over, the hydrocarbons of the molecule increase, the fermentation stops, and the respiration of the grain stops. The duration of maturity phases depends on the variety and growing conditions. You can reduce crop losses by optimizing the timing of harvesting. Waxy ripeness of winter wheat varieties lasts 10 – 12 days, and full ripeness is 6 – 10 days. The harvesting process must be organized so that the harvest does not drag on for more than 10 days. Use Crop Monitoring to determine the best wheat harvest time. 13. What is the average wheat yield per acre? The average wheat yield per acre anges from 30 to 65 bushels and depends mostly on the crop variety and growth conditions. For instance, wheat yield in the U.S. has amounted to almost 52 bushels in 2019, which is one of the largest in the last 20 years. 14. What is the price of wheat per bushel? Wheat price in 2020 amounts to $5.9275 per bushel. Production indicators affect the price of wheat the most: the results of the last harvest and expectations from the current one. It takes into account the following indicators: Sown area Prediction for the next harvest Remains in warehouses Harvesting time 15. How to increase wheat yields? Increasing wheat productivity by 50% or more is possible only via the optimization of crop management in accordance with the existing environmental conditions. First, it is important to evaluate the crop productivity and climatic conditions. The plant’s resistance to critical periods depends on the ratio of the growth rate to the environmental factors that limit the wheat yield. Secondly, it is necessary to develop effective agricultural activities in accordance with the potential of a particular variety. It is during the active growing season that the culture reacts to unfavorable conditions much more actively. However, using effective elements of agricultural technology, it is possible to control its development. That will include the predecessor, soil tillage, sowing time, variety chosen for planting, fertilizers, and irrigation. Use Crop Monitoring to help manage your wheat field for obtaining high yields of wheat.