Wheat should recover from winter shock
Wheat can tolerate cold temperatures, at least the kind we “usually” have. These temperatures are lower than wheat is meant to endure without snow “insulation.” Here in the South we don’t have the advantage of snow cover, so our wheat gets frost damage when we have these very cold periods.
Still, our wheat should be able to recover and produce yields we can be happy with, even though we will never know what it might have done without this unwelcomed stress. As I have always said, wheat does its thing in the spring, and I hope it will be able to emerge from dormancy and come on strong for us this year.
We are seeing a lot of leaf damage, but the plant structures that are most important are the roots and the crown. Forecasters say that we are in for a few more days of below normal temperatures, but since much of the leaf tissue has already been scorched, there is not a lot more to be concerned about unless we get into the single digits and stay there for a while. At least we have not seen soil “heaving” when ice crystals push plants out of the soil. Wheat can recover from this, as well, if it’s not extensive.
My expectation is that in about two weeks we will begin to have a few warmer days. Wheat will begin to break dormancy and enter “green-up,” when we need to get some nitrogen applied to support the rapid growth it will need in order to recover from this winter shock. Although I still believe a split application of nitrogen is best, we need to apply around two thirds of the total intended in the first shot , and then the balance two to three weeks later. One of the nitrogen applications should include ammonium sulfate to supply the sulfur that wheat needs for good nitrogen use efficiency. Remember that you need around two pounds of N per bushel of wheat.
I’m really not paying much attention to growth stage this year since this wheat needs a big kick to bring it back to life. This may cause some consternation with regard to weed management, but right now we need to devote our efforts to the health and vigor of the wheat plants. Most of the weeds in these fields have been damaged just like the wheat, and there really is not a lot of need for herbicide applications until the weeds revive as well.
I expect we will be applying quite a lot of contact herbicides like Harmony to head off broadleaf competition that could be significant by the end of February.
Fields should be thoroughly scouted for ryegrass, and the fields with significant populations will need a combination of grass and broadleaf products. My guess is that diseases may also show up as tender leaves begin to reemerge. It’s time to put footprints in your fields again. If you need help give us a call.
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