Home » Horticulture » Group I spring cereals

Group I spring cereals

Group I spring cereals, or early spring cereal crops, occupy the first place in the gross grain harvest in Russia. The leading crop of this group is spring wheat.

Group I spring crops include:

  • spring wheat;
  • spring barley;
  • oats;
  • spring rye.

In contrast to winter cereals, spring cereals are sown in spring, less bushy, less resistant to field weeds, and inferior in yield to winter cereals, except in areas not suitable for the cultivation of the latter.

Planted areas

In Russia in the 90s 40 million hectares were under spring cereal crops, in 2001-2005 – 33 million hectares, or 73% of the total sown area of cereal crops. Spring grain gross yield in 2001-2005 was 49 million tons, or 62% of the total grain yield (79 million tons), of which 44 million tons were wheat, oats, and barley.

The average yield of spring wheat was 1.50 t/ha (winter 2.68 t/ha); spring barley 1.88 t/ha (winter 3.44 t/ha); and oats 1.65 t/ha. On average, the yield of winter crops is 1.8 times higher than that of spring crops.

Because of Russia’s climatic conditions, where many regions experience harsh winters that prevent the spread of winter crops, spring cereals have an advantage; however, obtaining high and stable yields is a problem.

Spring rye has a limited distribution. It is cultivated in the regions of Siberia with the harshest climate, such as Yakutia and Transbaikalia. 

Biological features

The root system of group I spring cereals is less developed than that of winter ones, with the exception of oats. It is characterized by a reduced ability to assimilate hard-to-reach soil nutrients.

Compared to winter crops, spring crops are less bushy, shade the soil less, and are more oppressed by weeds. More and more often suffer from a lack of moisture in the first half of summer.

Spring wheat is the most demanding crop, somewhat less so spring barley. Oats are less demanding crops, but respond well to a high level of farming techniques.

Crop rotation

Good predecessors of spring wheat and spring barley are perennial grasses and one year after them, winter, row crops and leguminous crops. In the arid conditions of eastern Russia spring wheat is often sown on bare fallow.

As a rule, spring and winter wheat are placed in the rotation after perennial grasses as more valuable food crops, and oats after legumes, row crops, winter and spring wheat. Due to the fact that oats tolerate increased soil acidity, they are cultivated in the Non-Black Soil Zone on drained and developed marsh soils.

Tillage system

Main article: Tillage for spring crops

The system of tillage for early spring crops is determined by the predecessor, soil and climatic conditions, and the weediness of the field.

Main tillage

After harvesting of grain or leguminous crops, or immediately during harvesting, the field is discing to a depth of 5-7 cm, in arid conditions – to 8-10 cm. If the field is infested with rhizomatous and root-shooting weeds, discing is carried out at 12-14 cm, repeating it in the transverse direction. The main task of discing is to embed the crumbled seeds of weeds into the soil, crush rhizomes and stimulate their germination.

After the emergence of massive sprouts of weeds, plowing to a depth of 20-22 cm plow with skimmers. On soils with shallow topsoil plowing is carried out to its full depth with a soil deepener. During such processing skip plow undercuts weeds, throws them to the bottom of the furrow together with located in the upper layer of soil pests and pathogens of disease, the main body of the plow lifts the lower layer of soil and covered them with a furrow.

In conditions of short and dry summer-autumn period discing is not carried out, as seeds of weeds may not germinate and there will be no effect of reception. In this case, deep autumn plowing is carried out immediately after harvesting the preceding crop. Usually after plowing, harrowing is not done in autumn, but is left for the winter in a ridged condition.

In areas prone to wind erosion, for example, the southern Urals, Western Siberia, the usual plowing is replaced by flat-cutting of autumn cereal lands, whereby a large part of the stubble is stored on the soil surface, which protects the soil from the wind, contributes to snow retention, less freezing of the soil and quick thawing in spring. For effective weed control in this case, deep flat-cut tillage is combined with surface tillage.

In the Non-Black Soil zone on soils with a small humus layer the deepening of the arable layer to 25-30 cm with the simultaneous introduction of organic and mineral fertilizers is of great importance, especially for spring wheat. Deepening is carried out in the fallow and during tillage for preceding crops.

Harvesting of row crops is usually carried out late. However, with quality treatment of intercrops, the fields after them are clean of weeds, quite loose. Therefore, in this case, instead of winter tillage are limited to deep loosening. On heavy and highly settled soils, clean of weeds, do deep plowing without discing. If the field is clogged, the usual autumn tillage is carried out.

Plow a layer of perennial grasses plow with skimmers. Depending on the duration of the summer-fall period and the productivity of grasses, plowing is carried out after the first or second mowing.

In areas with insufficient moisture apply methods of snow retention and conservation of melt water on ploughed area.

Pre-sowing tillage

Pre-sowing tillage consists in leveling of the top layer of soil for high-quality seeding, preservation of soil moisture, clearing of weeds and loosening to a specified depth.

In early spring, as the soil dries out, harrow the ploughed fall arable land in two trails. After 2-3 days, treatment with tine cultivators to the depth of sowing seeds, usually 5-7 cm, with simultaneous harrowing. Sowing is carried out the same or the next day. To reduce moisture loss in arid areas, clean and not very settled soils, cultivation is not carried out. In this case, the sowing is carried out immediately after harrowing.

In spring the ploughed in autumn arable land is reploughed only in case of extreme necessity in areas with sufficient moisture. This is often associated with the introduction of organic fertilizers, which for some reason were not applied to the autumn tillage. In the spring treatment of heavy compacted soils good results are given by deep loosening of the ground with simultaneous harrowing.

In the steppe regions of Siberia and the Southern Urals to protect soils from deflation is carried out flat-cut tillage, using a needle harrow, then the flat-cut-cultivator.

Fertilizer system

Application of organic and mineral fertilizers at a high level of agrotechnics is important for obtaining high yields of early spring cereals. When planning the fertilizer system, take into account the preceding crops, the effect of fertilizers applied, the features of the crop, and soil properties.

The main fertilizer is applied during the autumn tillage. In the Central Black Earth zone on soils with high humus content, 15-20 t/ha of manure, 30-45 kg/ha of nitrogen, 45-60 kg/ha of phosphorus, and 30-40 kg/ha of potassium are applied.

In the Non-Black Soil zone on poor organic matter soils 20-30 t/ha of manure, 4060 kg/ha of nitrogen, 45-70 kg/ha of phosphorus, 40-50 kg/ha of potassium are applied. Nitrogen fertilizers are applied in spring under cultivation, in the rows during sowing, or as an additional top dressing. The use of organic fertilizers provides an increase in yield. For example, in Western Siberia in spring wheat increases by 35-40%, in the Non-Black Soil zone – more than 50%.

In the steppe regions of the Southern Urals and Western Siberia it is effective to apply phosphate fertilizers in fallow at a dose of 60 kg/ha. In the former All-Union Research Institute of Grain Farming the total increase in grain yield from this method in the year of application and for 2-3 years after action was 0.6-1.1 t / ha. Row application of granulated superphosphate at sowing in the rate of 10-20 kg/ha also gives good result.

Acidic soils are limed. Lime materials are applied once per rotation in bare or seeded fallow in an amount of 3-6 t/ha taking into account soil acidity.


Seed preparation

Seeds of the highest categories of released varieties are used for sowing.

Seeds are cleaned, sorted, checked for germination and purity. To increase germination energy and germination, they are heated in the sun for 3-5 days. Before sowing, they are dressed (similar to the dressing of winter crop seeds). Good seed preparation can increase yields by 20-30%.

Timing of sowing

Spring wheat, spring barley, and oats are sown early in 2-3 days. Sowing is started when the soil warms up to 4-5°C at the seed embedding depth. Sowing at optimal times provides the appearance of uniform sprouts. Plants use spring moisture more fully, develop well, are less affected by diseases and pests, and more easily tolerate moisture deficiency in the first half of summer.

The recommended sowing dates are adjusted according to the soil and climatic conditions of the area and local experience. For example, in the steppe part of the Trans-Urals and Siberia group I spring cereals are sown in the middle and late terms, i.e. in mid-May, first the most demanding and valuable crops – durum and soft wheat, then barley and oats.

Sowing methods

Early spring cereal crops are sown by narrow-row, cross-row or row methods. Higher yields are obtained by narrow-row sowing with a row spacing of 7.5 cm. This seeding allows you to distribute the seeds evenly on the field, to provide better light conditions, increase resistance to lodging and ensure uniform ripening.

Stubble seeders are used for sowing in the steppe regions of the Trans-Urals and Siberia.

Seeding rates

Seeding rate of early spring crops depends on the tillering of the sown crop, variety, grain size, seed suitability, soil and climatic conditions, and weed infestation of the field. For example, spring wheat is less bushy than barley and oats, so the seeding rates for it are higher.

On fertile soils and with sufficient moisture, in weedy fields the rate is increased, in arid areas – reduced. Seeds of durum wheat are larger than those of soft wheat, so the seeding rate for it is increased.

Approximate seeding rates for spring wheat:

  • Non-Black Soil zone – 6.0-7.5 million/ha of germinated seeds, or 200-225 kg/ha;
  • Central Black Soil zone – 6.0-6.5 mln/ha of germinated seeds, or 180-210 kg/ha;
  • Steppe zone of southern Russia – 4.0-5.0 million germinated seeds or 130-160 kg/ha;
  • Southeast – 3.5-5.0 million germinated seeds, or 120-160 kg/ha;
  • Siberia and the Far East – 6.0-6.5 million germinated seeds or 180-200 kg/ha.

Approximate seeding rates of spring barley:

  • Non-Black Soil zone – 5.5-6.0 million/ha of germinated seeds, or 190-240 kg/ha;
  • Central Black Earth zone – 5.0-6.0 mln/ha of germinated seeds, or 180-200 kg/ha;
  • Steppe zone in the south – 3.5-4.5 million germinated seeds or 120-160 kg/ha;
  • Southeast – 3.0-4.0 million/ha of germinated seeds, or 100-140 kg/ha;
  • Siberia and the Far East – 4.0-6.0 million germinated seeds, or 150-200 kg/ha.

Approximate seeding rates of oats:

  • Non-Black Soil zone – 6.0-7.0 million/ha of germinated seeds, or 200-250 kg/ha;
  • Central Black Earth zone – 5,0-5,5 mln/ha of germinated seeds, or 150-170 kg/ha;
  • Steppe zone in the south – 4.0-5.5 million germinated seeds or 130-170 kg/ha;
  • Southeast – 3.5-4.0 million germinated seeds or 110-130 kg/ha;
  • Siberia and the Far East – 4.5-6.5 million germinated seeds, or 150-200 kg/ha.

Seeding rates are adjusted to specific conditions.

Sowing depth

Sowing depth depends on the granulometric composition of soil, climatic and weather conditions at the time of sowing. The average depth for early spring cereal crops is 3-5 cm, in dry conditions and in dry weather in other areas – 6-8 cm.

Crop care

In dry conditions, during sowing, the soil is rolled with toothed or ring rollers in a unit with seed drills. Rolling compacts the soil around the seeds, helping to pull moisture from the lower horizons. This method helps to increase field germination, provide the appearance of early uniform shoots and good development of the root system of plants.

When caring for crops, measures are taken to control weeds, pests and diseases.

Harvesting is similar to harvesting of winter cereal crops.


V.V. Kolomeychenko. Horticulture/Textbook. – Moscow: Agrobiznesentr, 2007. – 600 с. ISBN 978-5-902792-11-6.

Fundamentals of agricultural production technology. Farming and plant growing. Ed. by V.S. Niklyaev. – Moscow: “Bylina”. 2000. – 555 с.