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BUL 980

2020 Southern Idaho Hard Winter Wheat Quick Facts

J. M. Marshall, C. W. Rogers, O.S. Walsh, A. Rashed, X. Liang, A. Adjesiwor

Winter Wheat Facts*
  • 2020 Harvested Area: 660,000 acres
  • 2020 Yield: 101 bu/A
  • 2020 Production: 66,660,000 bu (60 lb = 1 bu)

*National Agricultural Statistics Service-Idaho

Growth and Development

Using Feekes Growth Scale: Vegetative stage is through Feekes 5, reproductive stage begins at 6.

  • Germination – when seed is exposed to adequate moisture, oxygen, and temperature
  • Seedling Growth – until 9 or more leaves have unfolded
  • Tillering – from 1 to 5 tillers
  • Stem Elongation – starting from detection of the first node
  • Booting – flag leaf sheath extended to first visible awns
  • Inflorescence Emergence – spikelet visible to complete emergence
  • Anthesis – 5–7 days after heading, beginning to completion of flowering
  • Milk – kernel development to late milk
  • Dough – early (mealy), soft to hard dough
  • Ripening – kernel approaches harvest moisture (hard dough to harvest ready)

Rotation and Seeding

  • Wheat grows well in rotation—not recommended after corn or small grains when alternatives are available
  • Good seed-to-soil contact is needed
  • Seed depth should be 1–1.5 inches under irrigation with good soil moisture
  • Row spacing of 6–8 inches with commercial drills provides good distribution of seed
  • Seeding rate depends on seed size
    • Irrigated: 1–1.2 million seeds/acre (60–100 lb/A based on seed weight)
    • Dryland: 700,000 seeds/acre (50–85 lb/A)
  • Optimum Germination—when soil temperature is between 55°F and 75°F

Table 1. Optimum planting date estimates.
Location Timing
Treasure Valley Late Oct to mid-Nov
Magic Valley Mid-Oct to early Nov
Upper Snake River Plain Late Sept to late Oct


  • Timed to meet crop requirements
  • Greatest yield reduction occurs with moisture stress at
    • Tillering
    • Boot to flowering
  • Evapotranspiration (ET)
    • ~ 15–19 in of water
    • Peak ET occurs in mid-June to mid-July and decreases after soft dough
  • Water Holding Capacity (WHC) – the amount of water held in soil for crops
    • Soil texture WHC estimates
      • Loamy > 2 in/ft
      • Sandy loams 1–2 in/ft
      • Sandy < 1 in/ft
  • Available Soil Moisture (ASM)—the difference between existing soil moisture content and permanent wilting point
    • ASM can be estimated by subtracting ET from the WHC if the soil profile WHC and soil moisture lost to ET are known
  • Center Pivot Systems
    • Early season—supply soil root zone with moisture
    • Late season, pivot will not supply sufficient water to keep up with ET, in which case additional soil water reserves will be needed
  • Surface Systems (Irrigation)
    • Except on sandy soil—first irrigation should occur at 50% ASM
    • At least 50% ASM maintained from tillering to soft dough


  • Soil Sampling
    • One to two weeks prior to planting
    • 0–12-inch and 12–24-inch sample depth for nitrogen (N) and sulfur (S) separated by depth
    • 0–12 inches for other nutrients
  • Estimate of Nitrogen Rate—2.5–3.5 units N/bu yield based on
    • Inorganic soil test N
    • Mineralizable N from OM = 30–60 lbs N/A (estimated typically 45 lb N/A)
    • Crop residues
      • Potato/sugar beet/onion residue is accounted for by soil test
      • Alfalfa provides an additional 40–80 lb N/A not measured in early season soil tests
      • Small grain residue—ADD 15 lb N for each ton of residue returned to soil (up to 50 lb N/A)
    • Application timing
      • Loamy soil—single preplant or 40% preplant, 60% at tillering
      • Sandy soil—split 40% preplant, 60% at tillering

Grain quality in hard wheat varieties is a function of N (response varies considerably among varieties) and S availability.

  • Phosphorus (P, P2O5)
Table 2. Pounds of P2O5 applied based on soil test and percent free lime.
Olsen Soil Test
(0–12 in)
Percent free lime
0 5 10 15
ppm lb P2O5/acre
0 240 280 320 360
5 160 200 240 280
10 80 120 160 200
15 0 40 80 120
20 0 0 0 40
  • Potassium (K, K2O)
    • Response can be expected in soil with <75 ppm K (0–12-inch sample)
  • Sulfur (S, SO4)
    • 0–24-inch sample depth
    • At < 10 ppm (or < 35 lb/A) and low-sulfur irrigation water
      • 20–40 lbs/A of sulfate-based fertilizer can result in yield response
      • Target 10:1–5:1 N:S ratio
  • Other Important Nutrients: Chloride, Iron, Manganese, Zinc, Copper, Boron

Growth Regulators

  • Ethephon (Cerone) and/or Palisade
    • Apply at labeled rates and timing to reduce lodging, plant height

Common Diseases

  • Stripe rust, root rots (take-all, Fusarium crown rot, eyespot, Rhizoctonia), smut (loose, common, and dwarf smut), bacterial blight, WSMV and barley yellow dwarf, nematodes

Common Insect Pests

  • Aphids, cereal leaf beetle, thrips, wireworms, armyworms, and cutworms

Common Weeds

  • Annuals: wild oat, green foxtail, kochia, common lambsquarters, redroot pigweed, feral rye, jointed goatgrass, wild buckwheat, downy brome (cheatgrass), Russian thistle, mustards
  • Perennials: Canada thistle, field bindweed, quackgrass


Brown, B. 2001. Southern Idaho Fertilizer Guide: Irrigated Winter Wheat, University of Idaho Extension CIS 373.

Hagerty, C., and R. Smiley. 2017. Field Guide for Diagnosing Common Wheat Maladies of the Pacific Northwest, PNW 698.

Robertson, L.D., S.O. Guy, and B.B. Brown. 2004. Southern Idaho Dryland Winter Wheat Production Guide, University of Idaho Extension Bulletin 827.

About the Authors

J. M. Marshall—University of Idaho (UI) Research Professor and Extension Specialist (Plant Pathologist)

C. W. Rogers—Research Soil Scientist, Northwest Irrigation and Soils Research, Kimberly, ID

O.S. Walsh—Associate Professor, UI Extension Specialist (Cropping Systems Agronomy)

A. Rashed—UI Associate Professor, Ecological Entomology

X. Liang—UI Associate Professor, Cropping Systems Agronomy

A. Adjesiwor—UI Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist, Kimberly Research and Extension Center

Issued in furtherance of cooperative extension work in agriculture and home economics, Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Barbara Petty, Director of University of Idaho Extension, University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho 83844. The University of Idaho has a policy of nondiscrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, age, disability or status as a Vietnam-era veteran.

University of Idaho Extension


Physical Address:
E. J. Iddings Agricultural Science Laboratory, Room 10
606 S Rayburn St

Mailing Address:
875 Perimeter Drive MS 2332
Moscow, ID 83844-2332

Phone: 208-885-7982

Fax: 208-885-9046



Barbara Petty