Benefits of Winter Wheat
Winter wheat like winter rye can serve as an overwintering crop, although it is slower to re-establish in the early spring than rye. While wheat is a nutrient scavenger in much the same way as rye, it will use nitrogen for its own development and will not release it to the next crop as will winter rye. It will however, scavenge K (Potassium) and about 80% is recycled back into the soil at a depth that is attainable to the following crop. Although wheat will scavenge water soluble nitrogen for its own use, it is healthier for the environment to have a crop utilize nutrients, rather than allowing them to be unused and leach from the soil. During fall growth is when wheat will scavenge the highest amounts of excessive nitrogen from the soil. To scavenge as much N as possible, choose a variety with good fall growth. For spring weed control, choose a variety that produces early spring growth that will aid in shading out many spring weeds.
Like other cereal grains, wheat, with its rapid spring growth is a great weed suppressor. It is competitive for sunlight and surface nutrients. Wheat is also a soil builder and organic matter source. Wheat is perhaps more finicky than rye in the soil conditions that it will thrive upon. Wheat prefers well-drained soils with medium texture and moderate fertility.
Like other small grains winter wheat can be spring planted as a weed suppressing companion crop or forage crop. If spring planted, the wheat will not have an opportunity to scavenge the excessive nitrogen from the soil nor will it have a chance to vernalize, thus it will not develop a seed head.