Successful wheat cultivation with these best practices!
Background of the wheat crop
Wheat crop is India’s second most staple food after Rice. It is mostly consumed in the north and north-west parts of the country. Being rich in protein, vitamins and carbohydrates, it provides balanced food to millions of people. Before independence, production and productivity of wheat were quite low at 6.46 million tonnes and 663 kg/ hectare respectively and India had to import wheat to feed ITS population. With the advent of Green Revolution in the 1960s, India’s wheat crop production and productivity increased dramatically.
There are three varieties of wheat grown in India:
- a) Foremost variety Triticum aestivum or bread wheat being the most commonly grown one that is produced in almost all the wheat cultivating states of India, namely Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Bihar, West Bengal, Assam, etc.
- b) The second most common variety is Triticum durum or macaroni/pasta wheat which is grown in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Southern Rajasthan and few pockets in Punjab.
- c) The third kind is Triticum dicoccum or Emmer, which is rarely grown in the country and is only found to be cultivated in Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu in few places.
Wheat is grown in cool temperatures as a rabi crop, usually sown during the months between September to December in various states of India. Climatic conditions with cool, moist weather for most part of the year followed by a short, dry and warm spell is most suitable for wheat cultivation, which is ideal for optimal maturing and ripening of grains. Temperature required for sowing ideally should be around 10°C-15°C and summer temperatures of 21°C-26°C. Temperature at sowing needs to be low while at the harvesting time, higher temperatures are necessary for optimal ripening of wheat grains.
Wheat crop requires well drained, high organic carbon content clay loamy soils with a moderate amount of water holding capacity to attain high yields. Wheat is very sensitive to water logging, therefore heavy soils with poor drainage capacity are not preferred for wheat cultivation. Generally, black cotton soil with good drainage capacity and a neutral pH is preferred for cultivation. If wheat is grown as a dry crop, heavy soil with a good drainage capacity is preferred. Usually soils with moderate drainage capacity are preferred for wheat as an irrigated crop. Soils used for wheat cultivation must be free from coarse sand, gravel, stones and must have an uniform texture and should be deep and not shallow.
Land Preparation for wheat cultivation
Soils must be free of clods, stones, sand and gravel. Hence, the land must be ploughed at least 3 times during summer before cultivation. Following this, the land must be harrowed again during the rainy season to prevent growth of wild plants and weeds. After this heavy harrowing followed by a light harrowing is done wherein the rots and stubbles are removed. This step is conducted immediately before sowing. In the case of irrigated crops in Rabi, the land is not ploughed as many times. Irrigation is done before sowing so that there is adequate amount of moisture when sowing is done. In irrigated conditions, land is manured well and then re-ploughed before sowing.
Sowing can be undertaken from the first fortnight of October to the second fortnight of November. Desi and short duration varieties are sown in the last week of October while long duration varieties are sown in the second fortnight of October. If short duration varieties are sown late, sowing must be completed by the first week of November. Inter row spacing should be 22.5 cm and for late sown crop the spacing should be 15-18 cm. Based on the soil type and soil moisture, long duration varieties are sown at a depth of 5-7 cm whereas short duration varieties are sown at a depth of 2.5- 5 cm.
Seed rate and treatment
40 kgs per acre is the seed requirement and seed treatment should be done with labelled pesticides like Carbendazim or Thiram at 2 g/kg of seeds at 24 hours before sowings.
Wheat crop requires 450-650mm of water during the crop life cycle. Flood irrigation is the most common type of irrigation followed by farmers. Although irrigation is needed only once in every 10 days, it is done only once in every 15 days in case black soils as their water holding capacity is high. On an average, about 6-7 irrigation cycles are needed for wheat as they are ready for harvest within 120 days. Critical stages in wheat crop growth which require irrigation are at the tillering stage (21 to 29 days), flowering stage (45 to 55 days) and at grain development stage (65 to 85 days). If micro irrigation methods are available then 20-30 percent of water can be saved by drip irrigation systems.
Farm Yard Manure (FYM) @ 4 to 6 tons / acre should be applied before the last ploughing operation before sowings. For irrigated wheat crop 48 kgs of nitrogen, 24 kgs of phosphorus and 16 kgs of potassium fertilizers should be applied. Entire phosphorus and potassium are applied at the time of last plough. Nitrogen is applied in the form of three splits, first split at the time of sowing, second split at 30 days after sowing (DAS) and last split at 50-55 DAS. If zinc is deficient, veins turn to yellow color and then they become brittle. For management of zinc deficiency it is recommended to spray zinc sulphate at 2 gram per litre of water twice a week.
For insect pests and diseases
Please refer to Plantix for management.
Harvesting should be done when the leaves turn to yellow colour and gains become hard. 25-30 percent of the moisture will be in the grains at the time of harvesting. After harvesting, grains should be dried in the sun until the moisture percentage in the grain comes down to 10-12 per cent for optimal storage.