Variety selection is one of the most important decisions in small grains production. Growers should choose varieties with a high yield potential, good disease resistance and high test weights.
Wheat, rye and oats grown for grain should be planted into a well prepared seedbed or, if using a no-till drill, may be directly planted without tillage. Small grain roots can be easily inhibited by hardpans or plow layers, so deep tillage may be necessary if hardpans exist in a field.
According to the University of Florida Small Grain Production Guide 2013-14, the optimum time to plant small grains for grain production in north Florida is Nov. 7–Dec. 15. It is important to plant full season varieties in the early part of the range to ensure the crop receives enough cool weather to properly vernalize. Insufficient vernalization will reduce seed head formation.
Seeding rates for various small grains are similar. However there are large differences in how much a bushel of each crop and variety within a crop weigh. The old rule of thumb was to plant wheat at two bushels per acre. Because of the major differences in seed weight among varieties, it is better to plant based on the number of seeds per square foot.
The recommended rate is to plant 30-35 seeds per square foot. If you are using a grain drill with six- to eight-inch row spacing, this would be 18 – 23 seeds per foot of row, in order to plant 30 seeds per square foot. The optimum planting depth is between 1 and 1.5 inches. Seeding rate should be increased by 10 to 15 percent if planting in December.
Nitrogen is a key nutrient for grain production. A pre-plant application of 20-30 pounds N per acre followed by 70-90 pounds applied around Feekes-3, which generally occurs between the last week of January and first 10 days of February, produces good yields. On sandier soils it may be beneficial to use split applications, applying 60 pounds of N in late January, followed by 40-60 pounds in mid- to late-February.
Late applications of N (stem elongation or later) generally do not increase yield, but can lower test weights and increase foliar disease. Total N applications over 120 pounds per acre have not been shown to be beneficial and can increase lodging, reduce grain quality and delay maturity.
Sulfur applications may increase yields on sandier soils, where S is not as available. Top-dressing 15-20 pounds per acre with N should be adequate. Phosphorous and Potassium are essential for high grain yields. A soil test is the most accurate method to determine P and K requirements.
The majority of plant uptake for these nutrients occurs early in the plant’s development. It is important that these nutrients be applied at planting.
Lime should be applied prior to planting to achieve the target pH of 6.
Planting into a weed-free seed bed is essential to establishing a stand of small grains. The best way to accomplish this is with tillage or burn-down herbicide applications.
Additionally, there are several herbicides that can be used once the crop has emerged, but most must be applied early in the season, before jointing occurs.