BATON ROUGE, La. – Over the past few weeks, the winter wheat crop has gone through the gamut of late winter and early spring conditions, said LSU AgCenter wheat specialist Josh Lofton.
“During the second week of February, much of the state experienced bitterly cold temperatures as well as snow and ice,” Lofton said. “This was followed by nearly ideal conditions the following week.”
That week allowed producers to get in the fields and apply at least the first application of spring nitrogen, with many producers making the second application. This also resulted in tremendous growth and development for the winter wheat crop.
Conditions changed again, however, the following week, February 24- 28, with cooler, wet conditions that slowed growth and development – especially for the northern portions of the state, Lofton said.
“This past weekend presented great growing conditions, with adequate soil moisture and temperatures in the 70s and 80s for much of the state,” he said, adding that the wheat crop looked better than it has all year.
“This has resulted in much of the northern portion of the state showing anywhere from 1-3 nodes, while the southern portion of the state has progressed a bit further,” Lofton said.
For the southern part of the state, this week’s colder weather should be of very limited concern as temperatures should be right around the freezing point and will not damage wheat.
As for the northern part of the state, while there is some concern, limited damage is expected. It is forecast that temperatures in some areas could reach as low as the mid-20s, Lofton said. However, these temperatures are not expected to last for any sustained period of time.
Information from the Kansas State University Extension Service, shows the wheat crop is still in its most resistant stages of development as it pertains to cold stress, with temperatures needing to be less than 24 degrees for more than two hours, Lofton said.
“Overall, with the yield reduction of last season’s late-season freezes still fresh in our minds, it is justified to be concerned of these freezes as wheat begins to come out of dormancy,” Lofton said.
However, any damage from this week’s freezes should be mostly cosmetic, according to LSU AgCenter wheat breeder Steve Harrison.
Additionally, if temperatures are colder or last longer than expected, only the oldest tillers that are the furthest along should be damaged, Harrison said.
For further information on this year’s wheat crop, Lofton can be reached at 318-498-1934 and Harrison can be reached at 225-578-1308. Johnny Morgan
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