Record Wheat Crop Falls Victim to Too Much of a Good Thing – N

A strange sight began appearing in many wheat fields of Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri this past spring. No…they were not alien crop circles but they certainly looked like it!

Instead it was many, many acres of downed or lodged wheat.  This year’s wheat growing season evolved into the perfect storm that set the stage for this phenomenon, but the single greatest culprit may have been too much nitrogen.

The issue had its beginnings last summer as a corn crop wilted under the worst drought south of I-70 since 1980.  What was left behind was thousands of acres of crop insurance worthy corn and excess nitrogen left over that was never used.  Many of those same acres got planted to wheat and no one knew just how much residual N was left come topdressing time in the spring.

At the end of the day come harvest time these pockets of wheat were on the ground and serious money was left on the table because of it.  It was not uncommon that downed areas were making 10 to 20 bushels less than the wheat right beside it.  For growers that experienced this it was in some ways a double-whammy because not only did it take bushels off the top end off an otherwise outstanding wheat crop but it also meant they probably wasted fertilizer dollars for nitrogen the crop obviously didn’t need.

Talk about kickin’ a guy when he is down!  Pardon the pun.

The truth of the matter is that much of this could have been avoided with the use of new precision agriculture technology called real-time variable-rate application sensors.  The most common name in the industry for such sensors is GreenSeeker.  GreenSeeker is just one of the names of players in this space. There are others such as Crop Circle (OptRx) and CropSpec are also players in this space.  They may be better known by the precision hardware companies that represent these names – Trimble, Ag Leader and TopCon respectively.

Whatever your brand preference the concept is the same – sensors coupled with GPS provide instant feedback of plant health as you travel across a wheat field applying N.  This means you now can vary the rate more precisely to give the plants what they need not what the seat of your pants tells you.

Even in “normal” years this technology has shown to yield about 5 bushel more per acre and net a $14 per acre advantage over doing it by the seat of the pants method according to a University of Kentucky study.  There is no doubt this year those numbers would have been dramatically higher for many of the wheat growers across the Heartland.

To learn more about leveraging this technology also in corn, check out an agronomy brief from Pioneer Hi-Bred by clicking here.

We’re here to help! Inquire about this technology by contacting Justin Ogle at Prime Meridian ( or 417-667-4471) and see how real-time VRA technology can be incorporated as part of the Prime Packages precision management program.