Freeze Damage to Western Nebraska Wheat Mostly Cosmetic

Freeze Damage to Western Nebraska Wheat Mostly Cosmetic April 1, 2016

Snow-covered wheat field at UNL's HPAL 3/31/2016
Figure 1. Snow-covered wheat near Sidney is not expected to sustain yield-losing freeze damage as the growing point is still below the soil surface. (Photos by Travis Orrell)

As more snow hit western and central Nebraska mid week, just a week after the last round with 8-14 inches, any wheat damage, for the most part, appears to be minor. These storms brought valuable moisture as well as an insulating layer to protect the crop from oscillating temperatures, which in the last two weeks ranged from 8° to 79° F at North Platte.

For information on assessing damage at various wheat growth stages, see Freeze Injury to Nebraska (EC132)

Following are crop reports from the region.

Wheat at Enders in Frontier County, 3/29/2016
Figure 2. Wheat in Frontier County, March 29, 2016. (Figure 2-4 by Bob Klein)
Wheat trials at Stump Research Center, 3-29-2016
Figure 3. Wheat in a variety trial at the UNL Henry J. Stumpf International Wheat Research Center near Grant, March 29, 2016.
Wheat in variety trials at Stumpf Wheat Research Center
Figure 4. Another wheat trial at the Stumpf Center near Grant.

Robert Klein, Extension Western Nebraska Crops Specialist, West Central REC, North Platte: All the fields exhibit some leaf burn from earlier freeze damage which by itself is cosmetic damage only.  In checking fields Monday the variety test at McCook was jointed and the node was about 0.25 inch above the soil.  None of the other fields were jointed.  With the predicted temperatures and current growth stage, I would not expect major freeze damage to wheat in southwest Nebraska. Exceptions would include poor stands on tops of terraces and where crowns are exposed due to wind storms. Fields like the one at McCook will benefit from the micro climate.

Karen DeBoer, Extension Educator in Cheyenne County: Conditions here are similar as reported in west central Nebraska, however our wheat was not as advanced and was even less susceptible to damage at this growth stage.

Travis Orrell, UNL Agricultural Technician, High Plains Ag Lab, Sidney: The wheat growth stage here is progressing through Feekes 3, though none of the fields at HPAL has jointed. Some leaves have necrotic tips, likely due to new growth when temperatures neared 70°F that have now died back due to subsequent freeze events. However, I expect this is only cosmetic.  At this growth stage, most of these leaves will eventually be sloughed off with no impact on the yield. Moreover, the snow cover is likely insulating the crop from some of the recent inclement weather and may protect it from further damage.

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