Kentucky Wheat: How Will Snow Affect Your Crop?

Photo: University of Kentucky

Apparently Mother Nature didn’t get the memo that today is the first day of spring. Forecasts across Kentucky are predicting measurable snow accumulation.

Despite these predictions, the temperatures are supposed to stay above 24°F for at least the next couple of days. But by Thursday night, some locations may dip to about 23°F.

For wheat that has not yet jointed (Feekes 3 to 5), these temperatures should not cause any damage. However, for wheat that has jointed (Feekes 6), temperatures at or below 24°F for 2 hours may cause freeze damage.

If damage is suspected, assess damage as follows:

1. Wait until high temperatures are at least 40°F for 5 to 7 days. Assessing damage earlier than this may provide an inaccurate estimate of damage.

2. Freeze damaged wheat will have yellow, chlorotic growing points, limp leaves and/or a silage odor. There will likely be yellow leaf tips. This is a cosmetic problem only. The real issue is whether or not the growing point was damaged. A healthy growing point will be turgid, somewhat translucent and very glossy. A freeze damaged growing point will be limp, lose it definition and will not be glossy. A hand lens is very helpful at differentiating these subtle differences.

For step-by-step guidelines for determining the condition of the growing point, refer to the video below.


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