Central Texas wheat took a freeze hit, but it could be worse
COLLEGE STATION – There was considerable damage to Central Texas wheat from a late-March freeze, but it could have been a lot worse, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service crops expert.
“We still don’t know the full extent of the damage,” said Dr. Travis Miller, AgriLife Extension agronomist and Texas A&M University soil and crop sciences associate department head. “Some areas were pretty severely hit and some less so.”
During early April, Miller, with Dr. Gaylon Morgan and Dr. Clark Neely, both also AgriLife Extension agronomists, along with county agents, toured various sites and conducted wheat-freeze clinics in the Blacklands, where wheat was more mature and therefore more likely to suffer damage from temperatures that in some cases dropped into the mid-20s.
“The good news appears to come from the High Plains. Although there were some reports of injury, it was not extensive – just a little here and there,” Miller said.
However, a major cold front was predicted in the Panhandle during the night of March 9 that has the potential to cause damage to the area’s wheat, he noted.
In Central Texas, where there was more damage from the March freeze, it’s still hard to estimate how many acres of wheat were damaged, he said.
“It’s a situation where the upper part of your field may be okay, and the lower third of it may have 20 or 25 percent damage. You just struggle to get a number on something like that.”
Miller said he and his colleagues saw two types of injury during their wheat-freeze clinics.
“We saw lot of sterilization of heads,” he said. “And then we had stem injury where it ruptured the water and nutrient carrying vessels in the stem, and the plant just quit carrying water and the leaves were drying up. There’s some of both kinds of damage, but obviously the plant can’t recover if the growing point or the head freezes. It just dies.”
Miller said he and his colleagues also saw quite a bit of freeze injury to corn, but that this crop will generally recover.
“Overall, the damage was not nearly as extensive as I’ve seen in some freezes in the past,” he said. “Certainly if you’re one of those farmers who had more advanced wheat, it looks pretty severe to you.”
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries for the week from April 1-8: