Wheat acres in Indiana have had a challenging season since last fall: bone-dry soils at planting (stand establishment), prolonged winter with freezing rain, sleet, and snow (winter survival), and cold and wet soils during green-up (nitrogen rates and losses due to topdressing timings). The recent colder temperatures are now causing some abnormal growth of wheat that is near the heading stage.
Many wheat fields are in the boot to head stages in southern Indiana with the central and the northern areas to follow. Cold temperatures will slow the growth rate of wheat and the emergence of the head. The extended time for head emergence can result in funny looking wheat. The tip of the head will “snag” at the flag leaf collar and begin to split the leaf sheath at the boot (Figure 1). The plant will continue to push the head, and it will begin to extend out the leaf sheath split. The tip of the head will often stay “snagged” as the head continues to slowly emerge (Figure 2). The “snagged head” will eventually pull away from the flag leaf collar or push through the flag leaf collar. A “snagged head” will usually straighten depending on how “snagged” it is. Figure 3 shows a semi-straightened head that resulted from an earlier “snag.” “Snagged” wheat heads should not negatively influence grain yield.