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title image for chapter 11; Small Grains

JOCHUM WIERSMA
KRISTINE MONCADA
MARY BRAKKE



To continue reading Chapter 11, please click the link to the PDF below. The PDF version is the preferred way to read this manual; it is beautifully laid out with color images and graphics that help explain concepts.

If, for accessibility reasons, you require a plain-text version, click here: Text Version; or simply scroll down to find the text version of the chapter.

image from front page of chapter 11 PDF; golden grain field under blue sky

Chapter 11: Small Grains
(PDF, 714 kb)



Chapter 11 - Small Grains

By Jochum Wiersma, Kristine Moncada, and Sheri Huerd

A diversity of small grains is grown by organic farmers. In 2005, Minnesota organic growers led the nation in rye production and were number two in organic oat production. Acreages for all grains have made modest increases from 2000-2005. Wheat, followed by oat, are the most commonly grown small grains in Minnesota.

Small grain crop profiles

The four main small grain crop species that are grown in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest region include wheat, barley, oat, and rye. Triticale is a man made crop that combines the advantages of wheat and rye and may have potential in organic production systems. The Grain Inspection, Packer and Stockyard Administration (GIPSA) is the regulatory body in the United States that sets and maintains the classes and grade standards. There are eight basic classes of wheat based on color and kernel characteristics. For barley there are two classes, feed and malt, and there are single classes for oats, rye and triticale. Within each class there are four, or in the case of wheat, five grades.

The quality parameters used to set the grades do not necessarily predict end-use quality. In recent years, more and more buyers are demanding additional information to predict functional quality better. Examples of these quality requirements are falling number, wet gluten content, and vomitoxin content. This trend is likely to continue with the need for additional information about the functional qualities for the end-user of the crop.

Wheat

The genus Triticum encompasses all of the cultivated wheat species that are grown today. The genus is very broad and contains many species and subspecies, including wild and primitive wheat species that preceded our modern wheat. Based on make-up of the genome of the species, the domesticated wheat species and their wild ancestors can be separated in three groups.

In the first group, only einkorn is a cultivated species. Emmer and durum wheat are the crop species in the second group, while spelt and common or bread wheat are the two important crop species in the third group. Each class of the eight wheat classes has its own area of adaptation and end-use characteristics.

The three classes of wheat most commonly grown and best adapted to the Midwest are:

Hard Red Spring wheat (HRSW)

HRSW is an important bread wheat that generally has the highest protein content of any class, usually 13 to 14 percent, in addition to good milling and baking characteristics. This spring-seeded wheat is primarily grown in the north central United States including North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Montana. HRSW comprises just over 20 percent of U.S. wheat exports. Subclasses are based upon the dark, hard and vitreous kernel content and include dark northern spring, northern spring and red spring.

Hard Red Winter wheat (HRWW)

HRWW is an important bread wheat which accounts for almost 40 percent of the U.S. wheat crop and wheat exports. This fall-seeded wheat is produced in the Great Plains, which extend from the Mississippi River west to the Rocky Mountains and from the Dakotas and Montana south to Texas. HRWW has a moderately high protein content, usually averaging 11 to 12 percent, and good milling and baking characteristics. In Minnesota and eastern South and North Dakota, HRWW is grown on limited acreage because it will not consistently overwinter.

Durum wheat

Durum wheat is the hardest of all wheat classes and provides semolina for spaghetti, macaroni and other pasta products. This spring-seeded wheat is grown primarily in the same northern areas as hard red spring. It is especially adapted to drier growing conditions. Durum comprises nearly five percent of total U.S. wheat exports. Subclasses are hard amber durum, amber durum and durum.

Spelt

Spelt is a hulled subspecies of bread wheat that is thought to be the ancestor of our modern wheat. There are no GIPSA standards for spelt at this time. Spelt can be used as an alternative feed grain to oats and barley and is gaining in popularity as an alternative to bread wheat for human consumption. It contains moderate amounts of gluten and can be used for baking. The nutritional value is close to that of oats. The commercially available spelt varieties all have a winter annual growth habit but are less winter hardy than common HRWW varieties. It is more tolerant of low fertility and wet soils than other wheat types.

Barley

Barley can have both a winter and spring growth habit. Spring barley is the most commonly grown in the Upper Midwest. Currently available winter barley varieties have only marginal winter hardiness to survive the winters in the Upper Midwest.

A second characteristic used to differentiate barley varieties is the culm or spike. In two-rowed varieties only the central spikelet is fertile, while in the six-rowed the lateral spikelets are also fertile. Six-row barley varieties are most commonly grown in the Upper Midwest. The two-row barley varieties that are adapted to the Upper Midwest tend to be less disease resistant and earlier maturing than adapted six-rowed varieties. Two-rowed varieties tend to also have lower grain protein content, higher test weight, and a higher percent of plump kernels than comparable six-rowed varieties.

A third characteristic that can be used to differentiate barley varieties is hulled versus hulless or naked varieties. Analogous to spelt and common wheat, hulless varieties of barley varieties have no hull or glumes that enclose the grain. Hulled barley can be processed (pearled) to remove the hull and bran.

Barley matures earlier than wheat, is an excellent weed competitor, demands less fertility than wheat, and can produce a high quality forage. Harvested for grain, barley can provide a high quality feed or food with malt being the most important use. Quality standards for malting barley are stringent and require that not only the desired varieties are grown but also that minimum quality standards, including absence of fungal toxins, are met. Producers should ask potential buyers what their needs are.

Oat

Oat can have both a winter and spring growth habit. Spring oat is the most commonly grown in the Upper Midwest. Currently there are no winter oat varieties that have enough winter hardiness to survive the winters in the Upper Midwest. Like hulless barley, there are also hulless varieties of oat. Grain protein content is approximately 12 percent, but increases three or more percentage points in hulless varieties because of the missing hull. The grain is grown mostly used for livestock feed and to a lesser extent for processing for human food. The straw is highly absorbent and desirable source of bedding or can be left in the field to enhance soil organic matter and soil structure. Oat is the most commonly used nurse crop for small-seeded legume establishment and green manure. The early dough stage is the optimum growth stage if oat is to be harvested for as a forage (refer to Chapter 12 – Forages).

Rye

Rye, like the other small grains, can have both a winter and spring growth habit. Winter rye is the most winter hardy of all the small grain species and most commonly grown in the Upper Midwest. It is the only of the four species that is cross pollinating instead of self pollinating. This means that rye varieties are not only genetically more diverse than varieties of other small grains (which all are true breeding lines), the crop itself is more susceptible than the other small grain species to the fungal disease ergot (caused by Claviceps purpurae). The sclerotia or ergot bodies that ultimately replace the developing kernel in an infection can contaminate the harvested grain and are difficult to separate. Grain containing too much ergot is unfit for feed or food usage as the ergot bodies contain alkaloids that are toxic. Rye can be grazed as forage, used as a cover crop, and provides excellent weed control.

Triticale

Triticale is a man-made crop. It is a hybrid of either bread wheat or durum wheat and rye in an attempt to combine the drought resistance and yield of rye with the quality of wheat. The first report of a hybrid of wheat and rye was in 1876. By the 1930s, breeders and geneticists across Europe were working on triticale. After initial problems with sterility of the offspring, breeders were able to produce a stable, fertile progeny and in essence a new species. Triticale can be an excellent substitution for rye or wheat, especially in drought prone areas or areas with poorer fertility.

Reducing risk: selecting small grains. Choose a small grain species that is adapted to your growing conditions and market needs. The tables below show the adaptation of different small grains.


 

Tolerance to:

Small grain

Heat

Drought

Wet/Poor drainage

Acidity

Alkalinity

Spring wheat

Moderate

Moderate

Moderate

>5.0

<8.2

Winter wheat

Moderate

Moderate

Moderate

>5.5

<8.2

Durum wheat

Moderate

Moderate

Moderate

>5.0

<8.2

Spelt

Moderate

Moderate

Moderate

>5.0

?

Barley (spring)

Moderate

Moderate

Low

>5.0

<8.2

Oat (spring)

Low

Low

Low

>5.0

<8.0

Winter rye

Low

Moderate

Moderate

>5.0

<7.0



 

Tolerance to:

 

Small grain

Salinity

Weeds

Low fertility

Winter hardiness

Spring wheat

Moderate

Moderate

Low

--

Winter wheat

Moderate

Moderate

Low

Moderate

Durum wheat

Moderate

Moderate

Low

--

Spelt

?

Moderate

Moderate

--

Barley (spring)

High

Moderate

Moderate

--

Oat (spring)

Moderate

Low

Moderate

--

Winter rye

High

High

Moderate

High


Variety selection

All the small grain species and varieties described above are cool season annuals. Photosynthesis is optimum around 70°F and a maximum around 85°F, depending on the species. The table below shows the optimum growth temperature ranges for small grain species (adapted from Wiersma and Ransom, 2005).


 

Minimum

Maximum

Optimum

Crop

---------- Temperature °F ---------

Wheat

37-39

86-90

75-77

Barley

37-39

82-86

68-70

Oat

37-39

82-86

68-70

Rye

37-39

82-86

65-70

Triticale

37-39

82-86

68-70


For this reason, varieties that mature before the heat of summer should be selected. Producers should consult variety trials that evaluate grain yield potential of small grains. The table below shows small grain variety trials in the Upper Midwest.

University

Website

Small grains included

University of Minnesota

www.maes.umn.edu/vartrials/

Wheat, oat, barley

North Dakota State University

www.ag.ndsu.edu/varietytrials/

Spring and winter wheat, durum, spelt, oat, barley

South Dakota State University

plantsci.sdstate.edu/varietytrials/

Spring and winter wheat, oat, barley

University of Wisconsin

soybean.uwex.edu/wheattrials/printable/index.cfm

Winter wheat, oat, barley

Iowa State University

www.croptesting.iastate.edu/smallgrains/

Winter wheat, oat, barley

University of Illinois

vt.cropsci.illinois.edu/wheat.html

Wheat, oat

Michigan State University

www.css.msu.edu/varietytrials/

Wheat

Ohio State University

corn.osu.edu/~perf/

Wheat


The table below shows the results from organic oat variety trials, Polk County, MN in 2003 and 2004 (adapted from Kandel and Porter, 2004 & 2005). ‘Ebeltoft’ and ‘HiFi’ performed among the top varieties each year.


 

2003

2004

Average

 

bushels/acre

Morton

112

115

114

HiFi

111

121

116

Youngs

108

111

109

Ebeltoft

107

131

119

Wabasha

97

113

105

Richard

93

114

104

Sequi

92

123

108

Leonard

86

116

101

Hytest *

73

91

82

Buff *

66

72

69

       

*hull-less variety


Although many variety trials are not conducted under organic conditions, these tests still provide useful information to start the process of selecting a variety. See Chapter 9 – “Selection Factors” section for more details on the process of variety selection.

While grain yield is an important criterion in variety selection, grain quality is as important as grain yield if the harvested grain is to be marketed. For all small grains, plant diseases are a major factor affecting yield in conventional and organic systems. Grain quality and disease data for varieties of barley, oat, hard red spring wheat and hard red winter wheat are published in variety trials and are a good starting point for varietal selection. The table below shows the results from organic wheat variety trials, Polk County, MN in 2003, 2004 and 2005 (adapted from Kandel and Porter, 2004, 2005, & 2006). ’Alsen’ and ‘Oklee’ were among the highest yielding varieties.


 

2003

2004

2005

Average

 

Yield
bu/ac

protein
%

Yield
bu/ac

protein
%

Yield
bu/ac

protein
%

Yield
bu/ac

protein
%

Alsen

35

13.7

69

14.3

39

15.5

48

14.5

Oklee

43

13.4

65

14.1

35

15.1

48

14.2

Walworth

44

13.3

35

13.3

34

15.1

38

13.9

Hanna

--

--

61

13.4

32

13.9

47

13.7

Dapps

35

14.1

67

15.6

30

16.0

44

15.2

BacUp

33

15.0

51

15.6

--

--

42

15.3

Glupro

30

16.0

44

16.6

--

--

37

16.3


Reducing risk: variety selection. Select varieties based on use or markets and growing conditions in your region. Consult results from variety trials to aid in variety selection. Plant several disease-resistant, high-yielding varieties on your farm to spread out risk. When selecting winter grains for planting in Minnesota, choose only the most winter hardy.

Quality seed

Profitable grain production begins with planting of high quality seed. Seed quality is determined in terms of germination, test weight, and freedom from seed-borne diseases. It is best to use seed from registered and certified seed classes of known varieties. Certified seed must be sold with an accompanying blue tag that lists the variety name germination, weed seed, and inert matter percentage; seed lot number; and source of production. Certified seed must meet purity requirements and typically contains less than one percent seed of other same crop varieties or other crops.

Reducing risk: seed selection. Avoid seed sold as VNS (variety not stated) because the seed could be a varietal mixture, an unknown variety, old seed that did not sell well, or a disease-susceptible variety.

Soil fertility

A consideration of all plant nutrient needs is important for small grains, but N fertility management is especially important in wheat and barley. Excess N fertilization can lead to increased vegetative yield and decreased grain yields, weak stems and lodging, and a grain protein content that is too high for it to be considered suitable for malt in barley. Of the small grains grown in the Upper Midwest, wheat and rye are moderate users of nutrients, while barley and oats use less nutrients in rotations. Generally, compost and manure should not be applied in the same year as oats and barley are grown. Producers should refer to soil testing results for specific fertilizer recommendations for their fields. Soil fertility for organic production is discussed further in Chapter 4 – Soil fertility.

Producer tip

An organic producer from Lac Qui Parle County says that planting small grains following corn can lead to inadequate fertility for the small grain. He believes that if you plant wheat after corn, you should supply nutrients for the wheat with manure or compost.

Reducing risk: soil fertility. Include legumes in your rotation to supplement nitrogen. Apply organic amendments for small grains only as recommended by soil test results.

Planting

Planting date

The planting date for small grains will be dependent on whether it is a spring or winter type.

Spring-seeded small grains

Spring-seeded small grains are summer annuals that include HRSW, spring barley, oat, spring triticale. Spring-seeded small grains should be planted as early as possible to maximize yield. Grain yields decrease an estimated percent per day when planting past the optimum planting dates as the odds of heat stress later in the growing season will increase. Unlike corn and soybean where organic producers often use delayed planting as a strategy for weed management, organic small grains are often planted at the same time in early spring as conventional small grains. Optimum planting dates for spring grains are the first week of April for southern Minnesota, the second or third week of April for central Minnesota, and last week of April to the first week of May for northern Minnesota. Yield losses due to delayed planting can partially be offset by increasing the seeding rate about 1 seed per square foot for each week planting is delayed past the optimum planting date.

Fall-seeded small grains

Fall-seeded small grains are winter annuals that include HRWW, spelt, winter barley, winter rye, and winter triticale. Fall-seeded small grains are planted in the late summer and early fall. Establishment is a balance between allowing for adequate growth for the stand to get established and store reserve in the crown that will aid in the winter survival and avoiding the introduction of insect and disease problems that can affect the crop the following growing season. Optimum planting dates for winter wheat are September 20 to October 10 for far southern Minnesota, September 10 to September 30 for central Minnesota, and September 1 to September 15 for northern Minnesota. The same recommendations can be used for spelt, winter barley, winter triticale or rye. Planting past the optimum window will increase winterkill and likely result in slow spring development and delayed maturity as the vernalization requirements were not met the previous fall. Planting prior to the optimum planting date will create too lush a growth. This not only increases the chances of winterkill but also increases the odds that diseases, such as tan spot in wheat and Barley Yellow Dwarf virus or Wheat Streak Mosaic Virus in wheat, spelt, rye, or triticale, which are transmitted into the young crop by aphids or the wheat curl mite, respectively, can develop.

Producer tips

An organic farmer from Lac Qui Parle County prefers winter wheat over spring wheat. He finds that winter grains seem to promote better soil tilth because he doesn’t need to work the soil with spring tillage. He also likes that winter grains have lower protein market demands.

An organic producer in Pipestone County plants his winter grains by September 15th at the latest.

Legume companion crops

Organic producers often underseed small grains with red clover or alfalfa. Red clover tends to be less competitive with small grains and is more easily terminated, but alfalfa can be used as an acceptable alternative. The table below shows the results of organic oat with alfafa underseeding variety trials in Clay County, MN in 2003 and 2004 (adapted from Kandel and Porter, 2003 & 2004). Good yields were obtained when oats were underseeded with alfalfa.


 

Yield (bu/ac)

Variety

2003

2004

Average

Leonard

138

128

133

Sesqui

136

128

132

Wabasha

124

122

123

HiFi

129

118

123

Ebeltoft

127

112

120

Richard

116

108

112

Youngs

117

104

110

Morton

139

96

118

Hytest

97

90

94


The table below shows the results of organic wheat with alfafa underseeding variety trials in Clay County, MN in 2003, 2004, and 2005 (adapted from Kandel and Porter, 2003, 2004, & 2005). Good yields were obtained with wheat underseeded with alfalfa.


 

Yield (bu/ac)

Variety

2003

2004

2005

Walworth

60

46

46

Oklee

50

41

43

Dapps

58

40

41

Alsen

53

40

43

Hanna

--

44

38


Red clover can be underseeded at six to ten pounds per acre, while alfalfa can be underseeded at eight to ten pounds per acre. Underseeding legumes is an excellent, low-risk way for organic farmers to incorporate green manures into their rotation. See Chapters 4 and 12 for more information on underseeded legumes.

Reducing risk: planting date. To avoid yield loss, plant spring small grains as early as possible and winter small grains in the late summer or early fall. Planting winter wheat into standing stubble lowers the risk of winterkill substantially compared to planting in a field with little residue because the standing stubble traps and retains snow cover. Snow greatly insulates the crowns from lethal freezing temperatures.

Planting rate

Optimal plant populations are important to maximize grain yields. The optimum plant populations at harvest are shown in the table below (adapted from Wiersma and Ransom, 2005).


Crop

Plants per acre

Plants per ft2

Winter wheat

900,000 to 1,000,000

21 to 23

Spring wheat

1,300,000 to 1,400,000

30 to 32

Durum

1,300,000 to 1,400,000

30 to 32

Barley

1,250,000 to 1,300,000

28 to 30

Oats

1,250,000 to 1,300,000

28 to 30


Plant populations below optimum can result in increased weed pressure, excess tillering and uneven maturity, and lower grain yield potential; above-optimum populations can result in lack of tillering, weaker stems, and increased risk of lodging. Recommended seeding rates have been established for conventional systems and these also apply to organic farming. The table below shows the pounds of seed to be planted per acre assuming 15% stand loss and 95% seed germination (adapted from Wiersma and Ransom, 2005).


 

Desired stand (times 1 million)

 

lbs/acre

Seeds/lb

0.8

0.9

1

1.1

1.2

1.3

1.4

1.5

10,000

96.8

108.9

121.1

133.2

145.3

157.4

169.5

181.6

11,000

88.0

99.0

110.0

121.1

132.1

143.1

154.1

165.1

12,000

80.7

90.8

100.9

111.0

121.1

131.1

141.2

151.3

13,000

74.5

83.8

93.1

102.4

111.7

121.1

130.4

139.7

14,000

69.2

77.8

86.5

95.1

103.8

112.4

121.1

129.7

15,000

64.6

72.6

80.7

88.8

96.8

104.9

113.0

121.1

16,000

60.5

68.1

75.7

83.2

90.8

98.4

105.9

113.5

17,000

57.0

64.1

71.2

78.6

85.5

92.6

99.7

106.8

18,000

53.8

60.5

67.3

74.0

80.7

87.4

94.2

100.9


Additionally, a farmer can calculate planting rates for a particular situation based on the following formula below. Expected stand loss is 10-20% under good seedbed conditions.

Seeding rate (lb/acre) = Desired stand (plants/acre) ÷ (1 - Expected stand loss)
(Seeds/lb) x (% Seed germination)

Using this calculation would be especially helpful in situations where a higher than normal planting rate is needed (poor seed vigor, planting beyond the recommended dates, weed suppression, or due to harrowing).

Planting rate can also be adjusted when planting is delayed past the optimum planting date. The seeding rate should be increased by about 1 percent per day of delay up to 1.6 million seeds per acre. This will compensate for reduced yields in spring-planted small grains that occur due to reduced spikelet formation and tillering in late plantings.

Producer tips

An organic grower from Cottonwood County says that the organic small grain production is actually very similar to conventional production in his experience. The main difference is organic producers sometimes use a higher seeding rate. One organic producer from Wadena County always plants small grains at an extra 1/2 bushel rate to make up for losses due to harrowing.

Reducing risk: planting rate. Calculate and use the optimum planting rate for your crop and circumstances.

Planting depth

The optimum planting depth for small grains is one and a half to two inches. Seed should be placed deep enough to have access to adequate moisture yet shallow enough to emerge as quickly as possible. Seeds too close to the surface absorb moisture but are at risk of dying because roots cannot reach moisture quickly enough to sustain the germination and seedling growth. Deeper seeding can reduce stand density and plant vigor because the inability of the coleoptile to reach the surface. The maximum coleoptiles lengths differ between varieties within each of the species. The average plant height of varieties as reported in the variety trials correlates reasonably well with the length of the coleoptile and can be used guidance to assess the risk of planting too deep. Oat is the most tolerant too planting deep.

Reducing risk: seeding depth. Seeding equipment should be calibrated to deliver seed to the desired depth for a specific seedbed. Prepare an even seedbed to allow uniform planting depth and routinely check the depth of the seeding as conditions vary.

Weed management

Crop rotation is a key component in any weed control strategy (see Chapters 2 and 5). Small grain crops can get infested with a wide variety of weeds. The most troublesome grass weeds in cereals are wild oats, downy brome, jointed goatgrass, foxtail species, and quackgrass. The most troublesome broadleaf weeds are the buckwheat family, wild mustard, kochia, Russian thistle, and Canada thistle. Fall-seeded cereals are better weed competitors than spring-planted cereals with spring barley generally more competitive than HRSW or oat. In addition, there are varietal differences in weed competitiveness of wheat and barley. In general, taller varieties, varieties with higher tillering capacity, and varieties that grow rapidly and mature early, tend to suppress weed growth better. Weed suppression is not the result of any one competitive growth trait but the result of a number of traits. However, in general, planting rate manipulation is a more dependable strategy for reducing weed competition than selecting cultivars that tolerate or suppress weeds.

Organic producers may be tempted to use delayed planting to manage weeds in spring-planted small grains. While early-emerging weed populations (such as wild oats) can be reduced, substantial yield losses will occur, making the practice counterproductive. Overall, a better strategy is to plant early, which allows the small grain crop to compete more successfully with weeds.

Pre-emergence tillage can be used to control weeds that start growing prior to the crop. For spring small grain crops, blind harrowing after germination but before emergence can be performed. If the crop has emerged, post-emergence operations should be delayed until tillering is underway and crown roots are anchoring the young seedling, but prior to jointing as the growing point is more prone to injury. A harrow or rotary hoe can be used at the four- or five-leaf stage, especially if broadleaf annual weeds are problematic.

Weed management can continue after spring-seeded small grain harvest. Post-harvest tillage in the fall can help control of winter annual, biennial and perennial weeds. In addition to killing existing weeds, fall tillage may even encourage germination of some weed seeds that will then winterkill.

See Chapter 6 – Weed Management for more information on weed control.

Reducing risk: weed management. Crop rotation, planting rate, and early planting are the main cultural weed control options in organic small grains. Cultivation can be used, but it must be timed early and at the proper growth stage of the small grain. A primary tillage operation prior to seeding in the spring can reduce weed pressures of winter annuals and cool season annual weeds such as wild oats, wild mustard, kochia, and the different pigweed species.

Pest management

There are a number of pests that cause serious problems on small grains in the Midwest. Most of these are managed by crop rotation and resistant varieties. The table below shows the diseases and insects that affect organic small grains and are primarily controlled by crop rotation and other cultural methods (adapted from Wiersma and Ransom, 2005).


Pest type

Pest name

Crop(s) affected

Control method(s)

Disease

Common root rot

wheat, barley, oat

rotation

 

Ergot

Wheat,rye

rotation, tillage

 

Bacterial blights

wheat, barley, oat

rotation

 

Fusarium head blight

wheat, barley

rotation, resistant varieties

 

Tan spot

wheat

rotation, resistant varieties

 

Septoria

wheat, barley, oat

rotation, resistant varieties

Insect

Wheat stem maggot

wheat

rotation

 

Wheat stem sawfly

wheat

rotation

 

Hessian fly

wheat

rotation


There are a few pesticides approved for use in certified organic production systems. However, the cost of these organically-approved pesticides is usually cost prohibitive for field crop production and some of these products have not been proven particularly effective. Organic small grain producers in the Midwest generally rely on cultural methods to deal with insects and diseases.

Diverse crop rotations are extremely important in organic small grain production. Organic producers are not allowed to plant the same crop two years in a row in a field, which in of itself aids in pest management as a two-year break between small grains greatly decreases the risk of foliar and head diseases. At a minimum, wheat and barley should not follow another small grain or corn due to the risk of Fusarium Head Blight. Fusarium spores overwinter on the corn, wheat, or barley residues and can infect the subsequent crop if weather conditions just prior and during anthesis are favorable for the development of the disease. Oats are much less susceptible to the same soil or residue borne diseases that affect wheat or barley, but for most of the diseases in wheat or barley, there are other closely-related fungi that will only affect oats.

Cropping sequence data has been developed for MN and ND to assist growers in making good rotation decisions to maximize yield. The table below shows the best crops to precede small grains in rotations (adapted from Wiersma and Ransom, 2005). Crops in the first column are recommended to precede small grains in the rotation. Crops in the second column are not recommended to precede small grains.


Recommended before
small grains in rotation:

Not recommended before
small grains in rotation:

Field pea

Corn

Sunflower

Sudangrass

Alfalfa

Millet

Soybean

Wheat

Flax

Barley

Buckwheat

Oats

Dry bean

Rye


Refer to Chapter 2 – Rotations for more information of how crop rotations and crop sequence can benefit yield, soil quality, weed pressure, and overall farm success.

Other cultural control methods for pests include choosing resistant small grain varieties or a diversity of varieties. Depending on the pest, stubble management may be another control option. Fall tillage to reduce crop residue can decrease populations of a pest that overwinters, thus reducing certain pest levels for the next year. Unfortunately, fall tillage also leaves the soil unprotected in the winter.

Reducing risk: pest management. Utilize rotations and crop sequences that reduce the risk of disease. Check with your certifier before using new pesticides—conditions for use of a pesticide must be documented in the organic system plan. Always use good quality seed and choose resistant varieties whenever possible. Using certified seed ensures that the seed is free or nearly free of a number the economically important seed-borne diseases such as loose smut.

Harvesting

The harvesting process begins once the small grain crop has reached physiological maturity. The most obvious sign of physiological maturity is when the peduncle (the stalk below the spike) loses its green color just below the spike or panicle. Grain moisture is around 35 to 40 percent at this point. Windrowing or swathing can be initiated at that time. If straight combining, grain moisture should be no more than 16% if aeration is not available immediately and no more than 18 percent if aeration and/or drying capacity is available.

When combining, producers should determine how much grain is being left on the field. A simple method is to count the number of seeds per square foot, then consult the table below, which gives an estimate of the number of bushels that are lost. Below are the number of kernels per square foot that equals one bushel per acre loss (adapted from Wiersma and Ransom, 2005). For example, finding 20 kernels of oat per square foot indicates the loss of two bushels per acre. Zero percent harvest losses are unattainable, but well-adjusted combines should be able to limit harvest losses to well under three percent.


Small grain

Kernels/ft2

Hard red spring wheat

20

Durum

16

Barley

14

Oats

10


The correct moisture at which to store small grains will depend on which crop it is and for how long the grain is to be stored. The table below shows the recommended storage moistures for small grains (adapted from Wiersma and Ransom, 2005).


 

Up to 9 months

Over 9 months

Wheat

14.0

13.0

Barley

13.5

12.5

Oat

14.0

12.0

Rye

13.0

12.0


Reducing risk: harvesting. Harvest at the correct moisture level depending on method. Make sure that combine is properly adjusted by gauging harvest losses. Store at the correct moisture for the correct time it will be stored. Monitor stored grain regularly.

Conclusion

Take the following quiz to determine your risk in small grain production.

Small Grain Production Management Quiz

Answer each question below by selecting one of the answers and the number of points for that answers. At the end of the quiz, add the total points to gauge your risk level.


 

Question

Answer

Points

1.  Which of the following do you use to choose a new small grain variety?

University trials in my state

2

Score 2 points for each answer.

University trials in other states

2

 

Seed companies

2

 

Local on-farm trials

2

 

Recommendations from other producers

2

2.  Do you select seed using maturity and yield potential as the primary deterimining factors?

Yes

3

 

No

0

3.  Do you use certified seed?

Yes, always

3

 

Yes, usually

2

 

No

1

4.  Do you vary maturities and varieties to spread risk?

Yes

3

 

No

0

5.  How long is your crop rotation?

2 years

0

 

3 years

3

 

4 years

4

 

5 or more years

6

6.  Which of the following small grains are in your rotation?

Spring wheat

1

Score 1 point for each answer.

Winter wheat

1

 

Barley

1

 

Oats

1

 

Rye

1

7.  How many years do you have between growing another small grain on the same field?

1

0

 

2

1

 

3 or more

5

8.  Which of the following crops would you plant before small grains in your rotation?

Another small grain

0

Check all that apply.

Flax

2

 

Soybean

2

 

Corn

0

 

Alfalfa

2

 

Red clover

2

 

Sudangrass

0

 

Field pea

2

 

Sunflower

2

9.  Do you plant your spring small grains as early as possible in the spring?

Yes

3

 

Yes, usually

2

 

No

0

10.  If you live in Minnesota, when do you plant winter rye?

Late August

2

 

Early September

3

 

Mid September

3

 

Late September

3

 

Early October

1

 

Don't plant rye

2

11.  If you live in Minnesota, when do you plant winter wheat?

Late August

2

 

Early September

3

 

Mid September

3

 

Late September

2

 

Early October

0

 

Don't plant winter wheat

2

12.  Do you apply manure or compost to a field in years when barley or oat are grown?

Yes

0

 

No

3

 

Do not grow these crops

2

13.  Do you have a target plant population for each small grain you grow?

Yes

3

 

No

0

14.  Do you underseed your small grains with a legume?

Yes

2

 

No

0

15.  Do you adjust your planting rate depending on individual circumstances such as delayed planting or more weed control operations than usual?

Yes

3

 

No, I always use the same planting rate

0

16.  To what depth do you plant small grains?

1/2 inch

0

 

1 inch

1

 

1 1/2 inch

2

 

2 inches

2

 

2 1/2 inches

0

17.  When you plant winter small grains, does the seed bed have leftover crop residue?

Yes

3

 

No

1

 

I don't plant winter grains

3

18.  Which of the following weed control operations do you use in small grains?

Blind cultivation before crop emergence

3

Check all that apply.

Cultivation post-emergence before four-leaf stage

0

 

Cultivation post-emergence at four- to five-leaf stage

3

 

Cultivation post-emergence after the five-leaf stage

0

19.  Can you identify insect pests that attack small grains?

Yes, many of them

3

No

0

20.  Which would be the best method to manage Hessian fly?

Rotation

3

 

Resistant variety

0

 

Tillage

0

 

All of the above

0

21.  Can you identify small grain diseases?

Yes

3

 

No

0

22.  Which would be the best method to manage bacterial blights?

Rotation

3

 

Resistant variety

0

 

Tillage

0

 

All of the above

0

23.  At what moisture do you windrow small grains?

At physiological maturity (35%)

0

 

20 to 30%

3

 

under 20%

0

 

I direct combine, not windrow

3

24.  At what moisture do you windrow small grains?

30%

0

 

20%

0

 

15%

3

 

I windrow, not direct combine

3

25.  During harvest, do you estimate crop loss to ensure that the combine is properly adjusted?

Yes

3

 

No

0

26.  What would be a reasonable amount of crop loss during harvest?

0%

0

 

3%

3

 

6%

0

 

9%

0

27.  Which moisture level is best to store small grains?

16%

0

 

15%

0

 

14%

2

 

Depends on which grain and for how long it will be stored

5

28.  Do you monitor stored grain regularly?

Yes, always

3

 

Yes, usually

2

 

No

0


Add your total points.

If you score 0 to 45 points, your risk is high.

If you score 46 to 64 points, your risk is moderate.

If you score 65 or more points, your risk is low.

For more information

Wiersma, J.J., and J.K. Ransom (editors). 2005. Small Grains Field Guide. University of Minnesota Extension Service, St. Paul, MN and North Dakota State University Extension Service, Fargo, ND. Item # MI-07488-S.

Wiersma, J.J., B.R. Durgan, C. Hollingsworth, I.V. MacRae, and G. Rehm. 2006. Winter Wheat in Minnesota. University of Minnesota Extension Service, St. Paul, MN. Item #AG-MI 08421.

Organic small grain production. Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas. attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/smallgrain.html

Fusarium Head Blight (Scab) of Small Grains. North Dakota State University. www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/plantsci/smgrains/pp804w.htm

Tips for profitable small grain production. University of Minnesota Extension. www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/cropsystems/DC2900.html

National Association of Wheat Growers. www.wheatworld.org

US Wheat Associates. www.uswheat.org

Wheat Quality Council. www.wheatqualitycouncil.org

American Malting Barley Association. www.ambainc.org

US Wheat & Barley Scab Initiative. www.scabusa.org

USDA, Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration. www.usda.gov/gipsa/

Small Grains, University of Minnesota Extension. www.smallgrains.org

Small Grains Production, North Dakota State University. www.ag.ndsu.nodak.edu/aginfo/smgrains/

References

Canadian Organic Growers. 2001. Organic Field Crop Handbook. 2nd edition. Canadian Organic Growers.

Champion, G.T., R.J. Froud-Williams, and J.M. Holland. 1998. Interactions between wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) cultivar, row spacing and density and the effect on weed suppression and crop yield. Annals of Applied Biology 133:443–453.

Doetch, R.G., D. Kane, J. Stute, J.L. Posner, and T. Ends. 2000. Farmers Guide and Resource to Quality Small Grains Production. USDA-NCSARE.

Durgan, B.R.. 2009. Weed control in small grains. Chapter in Cultural and Chemical Weed Control in Field Crops. Revised for 2009 by J.L. Gunsolus, R.L. Becker and B.R. Durgan, P.M. Porter, and A.G. Dexter. University of Minnesota Extension.

Kandel, H. and P. Porter. 2004. Organic oat variety evaluation, Fertile – Polk County. University of Minnesota Extension Service.

Kandel, H. and P. Porter. 2005. Organic oat variety evaluation, Fertile – Polk County. University of Minnesota Extension Service.

Kandel, H. and P. Porter. 2004. Organic wheat variety evaluation, Fertile – Polk County. University of Minnesota Extension Service.

Kandel, H. and P. Porter. 2005. Organic wheat variety evaluation, Fertile – Polk County. University of Minnesota Extension Service.

Kandel, H. and P. Porter. 2006. Organic wheat variety evaluation, Fertile – Polk County. University of Minnesota Extension Service.

Kandel, H. and P. Porter. 2004. Organic oat variety evaluation, Comstock – Clay County. University of Minnesota Extension Service.

Kandel, H. and P. Porter. 2005. Organic oat variety evaluation, Comstock – Clay County. University of Minnesota Extension Service.

Mason, H., A. Navabi, B. Frick, J. O’Donovan, and D. Spaner. 2007. Cultivar and seeding rate effects on the competitive ability of spring cereals grown under organic production in northern Canada. Agronomy Journal 99:1199–1207.

Minnesota Department of Agriculture. 2006. A status of organic agriculture in Minnesota: A report to the legislature. www.mda.state.mn.us/news/publications/food/organicgrowing/organicrpt2006.pdf

O’Donovan, J.T., K.N. Harker, G.W. Clayton, and L.M. Hall. 2000. Wild oat (Avena fatua) interference in barley (Hordeum vulgare) is influenced by barley variety and seeding rate. Weed Technology 14:624–629.

Rehm, G., M. Schmitt, and R. Munter. 2002. Fertilizing Barley in Minnesota. University of Minnesota Extension. FO-03773-GO

Rehm, G., M. Schmitt, and R. Eliason. 2002. Fertilizing wheat in Minnesota. University of Minnesota Extension. FO-03772-GO.

Scursoni, J.A., and E.H. Satorre. 2005. Barley (Hordeum vulgare) and wild oat (Avena fatua) competition is affected by crop and weed density. Weed Technology 19:790–795.

Sullivan, P. 2003. Organic small grain production. Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas. attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/smallgrain.html

Weiner, J., H.W. Griepentrog, and L. Kristensen. 2001. Suppression of weeds by spring wheat Triticum aestivum increases with crop density and spatial uniformity. Journal of Applied Ecology 38:784–790.

Wiersma, J. 2002. Do small grains need micronutrients? Prairie Grains Magazine. Issue 43, Feb. 2002. www.smallgrains.org/springwh/Feb02/joch/joch.htm

Wiersma, J. 2009. Coleoptile lengths of current HRSW. March 27, 2009. minnesotafarmguide.com/blog/?cat=20

Wiersma, J. 2009. Prevented planted acres and winter wheat. August 12, 2009. minnesotafarmguide.com/blog/?cat=20

Wiersma, J.J., and J.K. Ransom (editors). 2005. Small Grains Field Guide. University of Minnesota Extension Service, St. Paul, MN and North Dakota State University Extension Service, Fargo, ND. Item # MI-07488-S.

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