Is it too early to topdress wheat?  That is the question that I have been getting the entire month of January.

Is it too early to topdress wheat?  That is the question that I have been getting the entire month of January.  With all this warm weather, farmers have been getting a lot of work done including topdressing their wheat. Lots of fields have been worked and anhydrous ammonia has also been applied in many fields as well.  This is a good thing which should make it much easier to get corn planted at the correct time of late March and early April instead of mid April through the middle of May like we have seen over the last several years.

So, what is the optimum to time topdress wheat here in southeastern Kansas? Ted Wary, former Extension agricultural agent in Cherokee county, and Gary Kilgore, former Southeast Area Extension Area Agronomist,  did some work to find the answer to that question.  Although this work was done in the mid 90s, I think it is still pertinent to today's farming practices.

Ted and Gary did a three-year study using six different dates for application of nitrogen on wheat. These included all nitrogen preplant and preplant nitrogen plus a topdress application on the fifteenth of each month running from December 15 through April 15.  The preplant application accounted for approximately 30 percent of the total of 100 pounds applied.

The one treatment that varied dramatically from the average of all applications was the pre-plant application of all the nitrogen.  The three year average for this treatment was 31.5 bushels.  Three year averages for the other dates of application included December 15 at 47 bu., January 15 at 45.6 bu., February 15 at 43.5 bu., March 15 at 49.7 bu. and April 15 at 44.4 bushels per acre.

Based upon this information generated by Ted and Gary, it appears that one time is about as good as another.  The April 15 application date is terribly late and I think that most farmers would feel that this is not a good agronomic practice and I would agree. However, I believe that the other application dates do represent a solid practice and it is apparent that the timing is probably less important than just being sure to get the nitrogen applied. So the answer is simply, do it when you have the chance.  In the end, it probably isn't going to make a lot of difference.  Of course, it is still not a good idea to topdress on frozen ground or on ice or snow.