Seeding Forages into Wheat Stubble

July 2007

Planting alfalfa or grasses no-till into wheat stubble can have many advantages. Soil moisture is conserved, erosion is reduced, weed seeds remain buried, and tillage expenses are eliminated. But despite these advantages, many growers still experience spotty stands.

Thicker stands and more frequent success can occur when planting into wheat stubble if a few steps are taken to help ensure success. One of the bigger challenges is heavy residue, residue that might interfere with proper drill operation and seed placement or even might partly smother new seedlings. Residue can be especially troublesome right behind the combine even when using a good straw chopper. The best way to minimize this problem is to bale the straw and remove excess residue. And be sure to have a well-functioning drill.

Another challenge is weeds, either annual weeds that develop after wheat is combined or volunteer wheat that sprouts later in the summer. Control weeds that exist prior to planting with herbicides like glyphosate and be ready with post-emerge herbicides like Select or Poast Plus for latter emerging weeds or volunteer wheat. Finally, consider cross-drilling or double-drilling. This means plant one-half of the seed while driving in one direction, then plant the other half driving in a different direction. This helps fill in any gaps, develops canopy and the resultant improved weed control earlier, and may help you plant the right amount of seed if you commonly end up running out or have much seed left over. Wheat stubble makes a good seedbed. Make it even better with a few management adjustments.

Bruce Anderson Dr. Bruce Anderson, Professor of Agronomy
Agronomy & Horticulture, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Lincoln, NE