Source: Joel Ransom, NDSU Extension Agronomist, Crop and Pest Report

For the first time since my arrival in North Dakota (the fall of 2002), substantial numbers of volunteer spring wheat that emerged in the fall survived the winter. Reports suggest winter survival was not limited to just one or two "hardy" varieties; it appears that in areas of the state where this phenomenon can be observed, most spring wheat varieties survived. Durum volunteers were also found in some regions of the state as well as the odd plant of barley. Environmental conditions were obviously ideal for the survival of these volunteers. Perhaps the warm November temperatures coupled with early snow cover that insulated the emerged plants throughout the coldest winter months were the contributing factors.

There are several reasons that volunteer spring wheat can be problematic to growers this spring. First, if the volunteers established in a winter wheat crop like they did in our winter wheat experimental plots, the difference in maturity and plant height between the winter and spring wheat cultivars may cause problems at harvest. Furthermore, a mixture of spring and winter wheat may result in the harvested grain being classified as "mixed," which will reduce its market value. Unfortunately, there is no herbicide or management practice that can selectively control spring wheat volunteers in winter wheat. Secondly, spring wheat volunteers that were infected with the Wheat Streak Mosaic virus (WSMV), will be viruliferous this spring and have potential for being a source of WSMV contamination for spring planted cereals in the same or adjacent fields. When spring wheat volunteers are known to be infected with WSM, no susceptible cereal crop should be planted until there is a break of at least two weeks between the death of the volunteers and the emergence of the planted crop.

The breaking of the "green bridge" that is so important in managing WSMV in winter wheat, also applies to spring sown crops this year if WSMV is present in the volunteers. Just because spring wheat volunteers survived the winter, however, does not necessarily mean that they will be infected with WSMV. No spring wheat samples tested this spring have been found to contain the WSMV. Nevertheless, there have been credible reports that spring wheat volunteers have been observed with WSMV. Additional information on WSMV can be obtained from the following Extension publication from Nebraska found here.