By Darren Hefty

Your first in-crop pass in wheat may be just around the corner, but there are three things you need to do before the sprayer gets to the field.

1. Take a Plant Tissue Sample

This is an easy 5-10 minute job and will generate some great information about your crop and let you know if fertilizer (besides nitrogen) should be included in your first application. Send in the above ground portions of about 30-40 plants to a lab like Farmers Edge in Canada or Midwest Labs in the U.S. You’ll get results back in a week or less so plan accordingly.

2. Use a Sweep Net

Buy a sweep net if you don’t have one. They are only about $20. Then sweep it back and forth 10 times through your wheat in a few parts of the field and look at the bugs in the net. It’s not uncommon to see several species of harmful insects. Adding insecticide to your first pass is cheaper than the application fee, so you don’t want to have to come back a week later to control bugs. However, using an insecticide when there are no harmful bugs in the field is a bad idea for many reasons, hence the need to use the sweep net.

3. Scout Your Fields for Weeds

Grass weeds like cheatgrass, Japanese brome, wild oats, and foxtails can crush your yields. For this reason, the grass herbicide portion of your first application is very important. To make it work, here are a few suggestions.

  • Make sure the weeds are actively growing. Warmer temperatures and some moisture help a lot. If weeds are hardened off from cold temperatures or drought, it’s tough to get a herbicide in.
  • Use proper spray additives. Depending on the herbicide, a surfactant and/or a nitrogen source like ammonium sulfate may be called for. If so, USE THEM. It greatly enhances performance.
  • Tankmixes. If you’re tankmixing with a broadleaf herbicide there is often some antagonism between the two, resulting in LESS control, especially of grass weeds. If you have a terrible grass problem, use your grass control herbicide in a separate application.


The first pass is often considered by farmers to be a “no brainer” time to add a fungicide. Not only do you get the plant health benefits for your wheat in a stressful time of year, you also can prevent diseases which are very common to the early growing season. Crop protection manufacturers label half-rates at this timing due to the diminutive stature of the wheat. While some of the generic single mode of action fungicides are cheap, for an extra buck or two you can often find a premier dual mode of action fungicide. Better products lead to a longer residual and a broader spectrum of diseases controlled. That usually means a higher return on your investment.

PGRs and Biologicals

There are several plant growth regulators (PGR’s) and biologicals (or natural products) on the market that may be considered for use in wheat. MegaGro (PGR) for
$4/acre has been our favorite so far, but there are more to choose from each year.


There are quite a few things to consider adding to your first in-crop application in wheat. Be sure to tissue test, use a sweep net, and scout your fields for weeds first to make well-informed decisions specific to your farm.