Wheat (Triticum aestivum) is one of the most important cereal crops in the world. China is the world’s largest wheat producer. Then, followed by India, Russia, and the United States. Wheat is an annual grass that grown all over the world for its highly nutritious value. The wheat provides higher protein and calories to our diet. As well as, wheat is an important carbohydrate source in many countries. So, this is one of the most important food grain sources for humans. So, a guide for wheat production is important to keep the nutritious value of this crop.
The wheat used to produce bread, biscuit, confectionery, etc. Also, it is an important raw material for manufacturing biscuits, cake, feed, pasta, etc. After harvest, stalks, and chaff separate from the grain. The wheat stalks use as mulch, animal’s bedding material, and construction material.
Common wheat (or bread wheat), Einkorn, Durum, Emmer, and Spelt are the main cultivated species of wheat. The wheat also categorized as “winter wheat” or “spring wheat” in the United States. The wheat production guide will help the persons who interest in learn cultivation practices of this crop.
Climatic Requirements for Wheat Production
Wheat grows successfully between 30o and 60o North latitudes and 27o and 40o South latitudes. But, it can grow beyond these limits(higher elevations near to equator). When concerning altitude, wheat grows more than 3000 masl. However, researchers said that it can grow beyond this limit(wheat reported at more than 4000masl in Tibet).
According to research findings, 25oC is the optimum temperature for wheat cultivation. Also, the maximum temperature is 30oC to 32oC and the minimum temperature is 3oC to 4oC. High temperatures during the developmental stages can hasten growth and developmental stages(while shortening some growth stages). So, the crop unable to achieve its yield potential.
As said by previous researches, wheat can grow in areas that have rainfall within 250mm to 1750mm. Wheat needs adequate moisture availability during the growing period to get optimum yield.
However, higher rainfalls may cause disease and root problems which lead to yield loss. Temperature and humidity are the major climatic factors that influence on wheat yield in tropics.
Agronomic Practices Guide in Wheat Production
Soil should plow and then followed by harrowing. Generally, this depends on the previous usage of the land. Uniform and rapid seed emergence, control of pests, disease, and weeds, aeration, effective irrigation, and good drainage are the primary objectives of the land preparation.
Farmers practice minimal tillage or zero tillage or full tillage depending on the situation. Incorporation of compost, lime, farmyard manure, or previous crop residues will increase soil fertility. Ridge and furrow system or raised bed can use to cultivate wheat. It depends on the available irrigation method.
The sowing time highly impacts on crop growth and yield. As a temperate crop, wheat needs a temperate climatic condition for its growth. But, due to seasonal climatic variability sowing time may change. So, farmers should prepare early to start sowing on time. Any delay regarding the sowing time may cause growth problems or disease problems.
Broadcasting, dibbling, and drilling are the main wheat sowing methods. This depends on the resource availability of the farmers. But, broadcasting may cause loss of seeds due to pest attacks or unfavorable weather conditions(high raining). Drilling is a good method that gives higher germination compare to broadcasting(but this is a more expensive method).
When concerning the seeding rate, it depends on the rainfall. However, the seeding rate can calculate by using germination percentage, planting density, and seed weight. Seed dressing or seed treatment may also apply before sowing the wheat seed. This practice used to avoid seed born diseases and ensure high seed germination percentage.
The sowing depth is also an important matter(It affects emergence ability). Sometimes, this may depend on the variety. Because of having shorter coleoptile and stem in modern varieties, it is better to sown less deep. Apart from that, moisture availability in the soil also influences on sown deep.
Pest disease and weed management
Apids, stem borer, termites, crickets, and wheat jointworm are the pest problems that observe in wheat fields. Insects/pests have different life cycles, habitats, biological structures, and food habits. Therefore, the integration of the pest management system(IMP) will provide a better answer to pest problems. It includes cultural, mechanical, and physical pest management methods.
Smut, rust, powdery mildew, Wheat streak mosaic, and leaf spots are the main diseases that observe in wheat. Farmers can take several measures to prevent or minimize these disease problems. Better field preparation, usage of healthy seeds, usage of resistant varieties, sowing on time, maintaining healthy soil, field sanitation, and crop rotation can use to prevent or minimize the disease problems.
Weed is the other problems that face by wheat farmers. Weed provides foods and habitats for pests. Not only that but we also weed use nutrients and moisture that available for the wheat crop. Competition with weeds is highly observing in the early growth stages of the wheat.
So, it is important to sow wheat seeds on clean seedbed. Farmers mainly use herbicide to control weeds in their fields. But, it is not good to use the same herbicide group continuously. Because there is a possibility to arise resistant weed types. Also, it is not good to use herbicide with overdosages.
Generally, nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium incorporate with soil before seed sowing. Wheat needs phosphorous at the early growth stage. Also, nitrogen applied as a split application for sandy soils(due to high porosity). Decisions regarding the nutrient application can take by using the plant growth stages (tillering/grain filling) or soil nutrient analysis.
According to researches, available soil nitrogen content and moisture content at the grain filling stage will affect the protein content of the wheat grains. Nitrogen availability depends on soil organic matter, previous land usage, soil type, moisture content, etc.
The wheat crop can grow in areas that have low rainfall. However, it needs irrigation on its critical growth stages(crown root initiation, tillering, flowering). Also, wheat that grows in sandy soil needs irrigation more frequently than grown in other soil types.
Any water stress during the flowering stage may cause yield reduction due to decreasing grain amount and weight. Generally, irrigation is stopped two weeks before harvesting. There are wheat varieties that have a probability to lodge. In such a situation, better to stop irrigation early.
At the mature, heads of the wheat are bend with the stalks due to kernel weight. Also, grain color changes to golden and moisture content around 10-12%. Not only that but also grains become harder and straws become dry and brittle at the harvesting time. Generally, wheat needs 110-130 days from planting to harvesting. It depends on the variety, Soil condition, and climatic conditions.
Future of the Wheat Production
Demand for wheat is increasing with population growth. According to the United Nations data, the global population over 9 billion by 2050. So, it needs to increase wheat production gradually to fulfill the requirements. Increasing the yield per unit area, increasing the cultivation area, and reducing the post-harvest loss are the key things to achieve future wheat requirements.
Due to population growth and economic growth, land demand for agriculture and other activities (human residents, buildings, roads, etc.) will increase. So, scientists have to develop new cultivars and find new techniques to cultivate wheat in non-normal areas(acid soils, saline soils). These new cultivars should be suitable for future climatic changes.
On the other hand, wheat is mostly cultivated by farmers in remote areas and widely maintain at subsistence levels. Therefore, it is important to provide farmer training and incentives to adhere to modern technologies. Improving storage facilities and supply chain activities are helping to reduce post-harvest losses.
When concerning yield improvement, there is a gap between yield obtain from the experimental field and farmers’ fields. Generally, crop yield depends on biological factors, ecological factors, socio-economic factors, and technical factors. Current research on the wheat crop mainly focuses on hybridization(intergeneric/interspecies), biotechnology, mixing germplasm, and pest/disease-resistant varieties.
The wheat is one of the most important sources of carbohydrates in the world. Also, it contains proteins, vitamins, minerals, fats, and dietary fiber. Not only that but also the wheat is a good animal feed source. Low-quality wheat grain (harvest that affects by rain) use to produce paper additives, adhesives, alcohol, etc.
Climate change, food security, and population growth are the key challenges that face in the 21st century. Therefore, wheat production needs to increase sustainably to keep food security. Organic agriculture, inter-cropping, crop rotation, drip irrigation, smart agriculture, and minimum or no-tillage are some practices that suit in the future environment.
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More sources : https://www.ers.usda.gov/webdocs/publications/43783/39923_eib116.pdf?v=0