The Versatile Grain: A Closer Look at Wheat

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Wheat, a cool-season cereal grain, is not only easy to establish but also a fantastic choice for fall hunting plots. Whether planted alone or in a mix with other species like clovers, wheat is a quick germinator that thrives in the cooler months. Its growth cycle extends until it produces a tall seed head, a favorite forage source for deer during the hunting season. Come spring and summer, turkeys feast on the seed heads as well.

Planting: Where and How

Soil adaptability is one of wheat’s strong suits, making it tolerant of a wide range of soil types, including heavy, wet-clay soils. However, a soil test is still recommended to assess the pH and fertility levels of the planting site. While wheat can withstand various pH levels, it performs best in soils with a pH of 6.0-7.0. In the absence of a soil test, a general guideline is to add around 300 pounds of a 13-13-13 or similar analysis per acre during planting. Nevertheless, relying on soil-test results is always preferable.

Once the crop surpasses a few inches in height, it is beneficial to incorporate 100 to 150 lbs./acre of 34-0-0 per acre. As a grass crop, wheat has a substantial appetite for nitrogen.

Wheat comes in two varieties: winter wheat and spring wheat. Winter wheat is ideal for regions with warmer temperatures where it can survive the winter. Planting it in the fall provides extended availability for deer. On the other hand, spring wheat should be sown as early as possible to optimize the forage yield it produces.

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One of wheat’s advantages is its low maintenance requirement. Minimal ground preparation, such as light disking or tilling, is sufficient for successful growth. Broadcasting wheat at a rate of 90 to 120 lbs./acre or drilling it at a rate of 60 to 90 lbs./acre will yield a pure stand. After planting, it is crucial to lightly disk or cultipack the wheat seed to ensure optimal seed-to-soil contact.

More information on wheat and its compatibility with perennials can be found in my complete profile in Quality Whitetails magazine, the membership journal of QDMA.

Maintenance: Keeping Your Crop Healthy

If production and harvest are not concerns, the initial fertilization and additional nitrogen mentioned earlier will sustain your wheat crop throughout deer season. However, since wheat is an annual crop, it must be replanted each season to ensure a continuous food source.

Finding the Right Variety

When selecting a wheat variety, consider the region where you reside. Some varieties are better suited for the South, while others thrive in colder climates. Consult your local county Extension agent to determine the best varieties to plant in your area.

Discover why deer favor awnless wheat varieties here.