Western Wheat Suffers with Limited Moisture, High Winds

Western Wheat Suffers with Limited Moisture, High Winds

April 3, 2009

Western Nebraska wheat stand suffering from dry conditions
Later seeded winter wheat had limited fall growth due to cool temperatures and limited moisture. These fields are still susceptible to damage from blowing soil due to their limited ground cover this spring. (Photo Source: Karen DeBoer)
Photo of western Nebraska wheat.
Leaf tip burn is a common symptom in western Nebraska wheat fields as a result of recent strong winds and low temperatures.


Irrigated Wheat Not as Tough

Although some precipitation has fallen in western Nebraska over the last two weeks, conditions are still very dry in many areas. Much of the western Nebraska Panhandle has been particularly dry since last fall. Along with rain, these recent storms also brought strong winds that have caused additional soil erosion and wheat damage. Hilltops have been particularly hard hit.

Wheat is greening up throughout most of western Nebraska, but many fields have areas where new growth is slow due to dry surface soil conditions. Nighttime temperatures in the teens following these storms caused some freeze damage, which is most visible as leaf tip burn, particularly on new leaf growth.

Without significant moisture soon, some Panhandle wheat may not survive long into the spring. Early planted wheat seems to be struggling more than later planted wheat because some of the earlier planted wheat had too much growth going into the winter and used too much soil water last fall. Irrigated wheat fields that have been watered this spring are, for the most part, looking quite good unless they suffered stand loss from blowing soil over the winter.

In some areas wheat had limited fall growth due to cool weather and limited surface moisture at seeding. Some of this wheat didn't germinate until late October when precipitation occurred. This wheat was, and is, the most vulnerable to damage from blowing soil.

Although most wheat in western Nebraska needs significant rainfall soon, winter wheat seeded at the appropriate time following summer fallow should survive longer than wheat that was drilled after a summer crop or continuous wheat, where stored sub-soil water is in short supply.

One benefit of recent cold weather is that it has slowed wheat growth and development and reduced plant water demand. With any luck, we will get some good precipitation before warmer weather spurs rapid wheat growth in western Nebraska.

Drew Lyon, Extension Dryland Crops Specialist
Bob Klein, Extension Western Nebraska Crops Specialist
Karen DeBoer, Extension Educator, Kimball, Banner, and Cheyenne Counties
Bill Booker, Extension Educator, Box Butte County