Beck's Blog

From Our Family Farm to Yours

Agronomy Update

Winter Kill in Wheat and What to Scout For

Published on Thursday, January 7, 2016

I hope everybody had a wonderful holiday season! I am the new Field Agronomist for Beck's southern marketing area and wanted to take this opportunity to say hello and address a concern some of our southern farmers may be experiencing.

As I sit here in shorts and a T-shirt, I can’t help but notice the unseasonably warm temperatures we’ve had. While it’s nice to sit on the porch in 70 degree weather and drink coffee, I’ve gotten a few calls concerning fall wheat growth. The landlord might think the green wheat field looks good, but “winter kill” is becoming a concern for many farmers. 

Typically, wheat has good germination and growth between 54 and 77 degrees, but then needs temperatures to drop below 50 degrees to complete the vernilization requirements. Soft red winter wheat will experience some winter kill if the temperatures drop below 12 degrees for an extended amount of time. This is outlined in the table below.

Source: A Comprehensive Guide to Wheat Management in Kentucky, ID-125

While winter kill is a concern, the most susceptible time for freeze damage is in the spring when the wheat has already began to “green up” and then experiences another hard frost after the stem has begun elongating. This is my concern for some of our early planted wheat that it still actively growing. We need to be proactive in scouting wheat fields in the spring to determine the number of plants/sq. ft. and the tiller number/sq. ft.

Research has shown that 25 plants/sq. ft. and 75 to 100 tillers/sq. ft. has the potential to produce high yields. Plant population cannot be helped in the spring, but the tiller number can be influenced by an early nitrogen (N) application. If you find your numbers are low at green up, I would suggest getting an early application (early to mid-February) of 40 to 60 lb. of N followed by another application of 30 to 50 lb. of N a month later. Remember, all of your N needs to be out prior to jointing. 

As a side note, the wet fall and winter we’ve had this year continues to leach and denitrify the amount of residual N left over from the previous crop, so you should be on the lookout for early spring N deficiencies. If you have any questions or concerns don't hesitate to contact your local seed advisor or dealer!


Comments (0)Number of views (14438)
Austin Scott

Austin Scott

Other posts by Austin Scott
Contact author

Leave a comment

Add comment