Early seeding has been suggested as a method of increasing the grain yield and grain yield stability of wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) in the Northern Great Plains. The point at which early seeding results in a decrease in grain yield has not been clearly identified. Changes in climatic conditions have increased frost-free periods and increased temperatures during grain filling, which can either be taken advantage of or avoided by seeding earlier. Field trials were conducted in western Canada from 2015 to 2018 to evaluate an ultra-early wheat planting system based on soil temperature triggers as opposed to calendar dates. Planting began when soil temperatures at 5 cm depth reached 0°C and continued at 2°C intervals until 10°C, regardless of calendar date. Conventional commercial spring wheat genetics and newly identified cold tolerant spring wheat lines were evaluated to determine if ultra-early wheat seeding systems required further development of specialized varieties to maintain system stability. Ultra-early seeding resulted in no detrimental effect on grain yield. Grain yield increased at sites south of 51° latitude N, and was unaffected by ultra-early seeding at sites north of 51° latitude N. Grain protein content, kernel weight, and bulk density were not affected by ultra-early seeding. Optimal seeding time was identified between 2 and 6°C soil temperatures. A greater reduction in grain yield was observed from delaying planting until soils reached 10°C than from seeding into 0°C soils; this was despite extreme environmental conditions after initial seeding, including air temperatures as low as -10.2°C, and as many as 37 nights with air temperatures below 0°C. Wheat emergence ranged from 55 to 70%, and heads m-2 decreased with delayed seeding while heads plant-1 did not change. Cold tolerant wheat lines did not increase stability of the ultra-early wheat seeding system relative to the conventional spring wheat check, and are therefore not required for growers to adopt ultra-early seeding. The results of this study indicate that growers in western Canada can successfully begin seeding wheat earlier, with few changes to their current management practices, and endure less risk than delaying seeding until soil temperatures reach 10°C or greater.
Keywords: cold tolerance; early; grain yield; great plains; seeding; stability; wheat.
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