A Tale of Two Seeding Dates

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

This past fall, just like every fall for the past 40 years, the crew at Dakota Lakes got some spring wheat in the ground. But wait – isn’t spring wheat supposed to be planted in the … spring?

According to former manager Dr. Dwayne Beck, the practice he calls dormant seeding was started as a way to get spring wheat seeding done in advance because it’s sometimes difficult to seed early in the spring.

“This year there were many people who had difficulty getting their spring wheat in on time,” Beck says. “Dormant seeding was and is our attempt to address that.”

Dormant seeding is usually done in the late fall, according to Beck.

“My favorite joke is that the best day to do it is Black Friday, so you don’t have to go shopping,” he says.

This past fall, the dormant seeding was done on December 6, 2023, while the spring seeding was planted on March 12, 2024.

Obviously, the yield will tell the final story, but as of June 9 when Beck, his wife, Ruth, and their dog, Beau, visited the farm, the two seedings were visibly different, with the dormant-seeded wheat already heading out (on the left in the photo above) whereas the spring-planted wheat was not (on the right).

Beck says some years there is little difference in yield between the two treatments, but most years there is an advantage to the dormant seeding. “We have had instances when the dormant seeding was not as good but not often,” he says.

Explaining why dormant seeding can be advantageous, Beck says, “Early seeding and maturity is important most years to avoid hot weather during grain filling. But it’s important that dormant seeding be done in a low-disturbance no-till environment with adequate residue, otherwise it can be subject to wind erosion.”

Beck says timing varies depending upon conditions. “We wait in the fall until we’ve had a chance to spray our annual weeds. We also want the soil to be cool but not frozen hard,” he says. 

Despite the advantage to dormant seeding, not many farmers do it. “I think one problem is the need to pull the seeder back out after it’s been cleaned and put away, when the days are short and the nights are long,” Beck says. “Also, there’s lots of harvesting to be done at this  time.”

Folks who come to the Dakota Lakes Annual Field Day on June 27, 2024, will see this demonstration plus much more. Mark your calendars!

Right: Dr. Dwayne Beck and his faithful pooch, Beau, compare dormant-seeded spring wheat (left), which was planted on December 6, 2023, and spring-seeded wheat, planted on March 12 (right). One advantage of dormant seeding is that it tends to mature earlier, which usually helps avoid the hot weather during grain fill.

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