Trial Report Summary

Ducks Unlimited Canada: Winter wheat fertility program to maximize yield potential of new winter wheat varieties

Crop Type(s):
Winter Wheat

Elmer Kaskiw, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Western Ag Lab and Professional Agronomy


To compare historical/standard “Producer Practice [100% spring]” fertility program
to a balanced “High Yield Practice [Balanced]” as determined by Western Ag Soil
analysis and recommendations.

Project Findings:

Results from this study indicate that balanced fertilizer management approach could be a better option
than the farmer practice of applying all nitrogen in spring. This is largely due to the fact that winter
wheat requires adequate starter nitrogen during early days of establishment in fall and when it resumes
development in spring. Continued field study would be necessary to effectively develop fertilizer
management recommendations that winter wheat producers can use for their areas of production.


Following decades of extensive work in winter wheat production in North America, many researchers
and producers have begun to implement best management practices to obtain higher grain yield and
improve profitability in the crop. Management practices presently being implemented to improve
winter wheat production include; increasing seeding rate, application of starter fertilizer by banding
during seeding, variety selection, pest control (Anderson, 2008) and split application, during planting in
fall and at tillering or stem elongation in spring (Schulz et al., 2015). Fertility management, in particular
nitrogen and phosphorus, remains the integral part of the overall management package aimed at
achieving higher yields in winter wheat (Halvorson et al. 1987). Recommended fertilizer management,
particularly nitrogen, differs widely in winter wheat production but the crop’s nitrogen demand is
correlated to yield potential and availability of moisture in dryland productions systems (Beres et al.,
2018). Compared to spring wheat, winter wheat presents more challenges in development as a result of
its higher nitrogen demand during the long vegetative phase, hence the reason why it requires 25 to
50% more N than spring wheat in the Prairies (Fowler et al., 1989). The ideal fertility management
package would help counteract escalating cost of production per unit area, which is the main goal that
producers aim to achieve. There is still a knowledge gap on the rates as well as timing of application of
nitrogen fertilizer, particularly in Western Canada, that would result in improved yield without
compromising the quality of grain and economic returns. Morris et al. (2018) suggested the
implementation of adaptive use of nitrogen to help augment and improve nitrogen application rate
decision making by farmers. Therefore, there is a great need to continue with research on the best
management practices that can be availed to producers to improve economic returns in winter wheat


Entire findings are available by downloading the report PDF.

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