Wheat Growing in Pitts, Georgia

Overview

Soft red winter wheat, used to make flour especially suited to baking pastries, cannot survive harsh winters and grows best in the humid climates of the South and Southeastern parts of the U.S. You sow it in the fall and it lies dormant in the winter. Several varieties have been developed that should do well in the growing climate in Pitts, Georgia.

Planting

Sow soft red winter wheat in the late fall at a depth of 3/4 to 1 1/2 inches. Agronomists at Purdue University say you should aim for 1.3 to 1.5 million plants per acre; to achieve that you will need 30 to 35 plants per square foot. Seed size varies from 10,000 to 16,000 seeds per pound. If you have large, 12,000-per-pound seeds, sow 120 lbs. for each acre to grow 30 plants per square foot. If you sow small, 14,000-per-pound seeds, sow 100 lbs. per acre.

Fertilizer

Dr. Dewey Lee, an agronomist at the University of Georgia, recommends applying 80 to 100 lbs. of nitrogen per acre, including fall applications, for yields of 40 to 70 bushels per acre. He recommends up to 120 lbs. of nitrogen per acre to achieve yields of 70 to 100 bushels per acre. Lee recommends counting the tillers in your field in the late winter. To achieve high yields of 50 to 70 heads of grain per square foot, your wheat should have 80 to 100 tillers per square foot before they begin to grow. If your tiller count is under 80 per square foot, you should apply 30 to 40 lbs. of nitrogen per acre.

Disease

Diseases that you will likely encounter include glume blotch, leaf blotch, leaf rust, powdery mildew and stripe rust. These are fungal disease caused by humid Georgia summers. Start looking for disease symptoms when the stems begin growing. Ask the Agricultural Extension Service of the University of Georgia for the proper fungicides for the disease that is afflicting your wheat. The best time to apply fungicides is when the flag leafs emerge to the early formation of seed heads.

Insects and Weeds

Start looking for insects when you begin counting tillers in late winter. The main pest, aphids, will usually be the first insect you spot. As the stems grow longer and seed heads begin to form look for the larvae of cereal leaf beetles and army worms. Scout for weeds when you count tillers in late winter; you will most often find chickweed, henbit, Italian ryegrass, Poa annua, wild garlic and wild mustard. For recommended pesticides and herbicides plus details of their application, check the agricultural extension service of the University of Georgia.

Harvesting

Your wheat should ripen around June 1 in Pitts. The wheat will turn yellow and the kernels will become brittle with a moisture content of 12 to 13 percent. The best way to harvest is by combine that both cuts and threshes the wheat.

Best Varieties

The Southern Seed Certification Association has a list of six soft red winter varieties that were developed for the Southeast. The Florida Foundation Seed Producers gives the details of two varieties of soft red winter wheat developed jointly by the agricultural extension services of the University of Georgia and the University of Florida. The University of Georgia has developed its own variety of wheat, GSA 210, for the climate in Georgia; its GA Gore variety is among those described by the Southern Seed Certification Association.

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About this Author

Richard Hoyt, the author of 26 mysteries, thrillers and other novels, is a former reporter for Honolulu dailies and writer for "Newsweek" magazine. He taught nonfiction writing and journalism at the university level for 10 years. He holds a Ph.D. in American studies.