Will the Recent Cold Temperatures Impact Winter Wheat?

I have had a few questions from producers and agronomists on the impact the recent cold temperatures (& snow) will have on the winter wheat crop.  Winter wheat can be impacted by cold temperatures, but it depends on how low the temperature goes and the growth stage.

Winter wheat at the ‘greening up’ to tillering stage can withstand low temperatures for a period of time (-11°C for less than 2 hours). The main reason is prior to the tillering stage, the growing point is protected below the soil surface. However, keep in mind there can be other factors that influence cold temperature injury to wheat – plant moisture content, field topography, wind, and precipitation — that make it difficult to predict precisely if any injury occurred.  In the coming days and weeks (depending on weather), look for new growth.

With low temperatures, winter wheat may still exhibit symptoms of injury including leaf burn and necrotic leaf tips.  Leaf burn from freezing temperatures can occur at any growth stage, but generally has limited impact on yield potential, especially during tillering. However, it has been seen that injury at early growth stages may slow growth and may reduce tiller numbers, which could have a slight to moderate impact on yield potential.  A lot of that will depend on the growing conditions going forward.  A return to warm temperatures would be of benefit.

Much of the above information was taken from the document titled “Spring Freeze Injury to Kansas Wheat”. For the entire document, which includes information on other growth stages along with excellent photos illustrating the possible symptoms of freeze injury, please refer to the following link: http://www.ksre.k-state.edu/bookstore/pubs/C646.PDF


Submitted by:  Pam de Rocquigny, Provincial Cereal Crops Specialist, MAFRD


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