Keep an Eye on Your Wheat Crop

Wheat is beginning to "green up" across Ohio, and the crop – despite a late planting in some areas – looks promising.

Published on: Apr 14, 2010
Unfavorable weather conditions last fall and late soybean harvest prevented growers from planting wheat in a timely manner. In some cases, not all of the wheat made it in the ground, according to Pierce Paul, an Ohio State University Extension plant pathologist and wheat specialist.

"Despite the delays, what wheat has been planted is looking good. We had some relatively warm conditions during late fall and early winter, so we had some tiller development going on as late as November, and we had good snow cover," says Paul, who also holds an appointment with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.

Final stand counts and a complete assessment of the state of the crop will be determined soon, as temperatures continue to warm up.

"Now is the time for growers to get out and walk their fields for two reasons: to look for signs of heaving and to make sure they don't miss Feekes Growth Stage 6 and Feekes Growth Stage 7," saysd Paul.

Heaving, where the crown of the plant is exposed at the soil surface, is caused by repeated freezing and thawing. Paul anticipates few heaving problems. Growth stages 6 and 7 mark a critical period of the crop's development that requires chemical applications.

"Growers should be getting a feel for the growth stage of their wheat now so they don't miss nitrogen and herbicide applications," says Paul. "Both applications should be made before the wheat reaches growth stages 6."

Feekes Growth Stage 6 is when the first node appears above the soil line. This shows up as a slightly swollen area about an inch or so from the base of the stem.

"Since all tillers will not reach the same growth stage at the same time, pull tillers from multiple areas of the field and look for the node on the main tillers," says Paul. "Run your fingers over the base of the tiller and feel for a slight lump or swelling."

Feekes Growth Stage 7 is when the second node is visible above the soil surface. It can be detected in the same manner.

As the season developments, Paul and his colleagues will be keeping a close eye on the potential development of head scab, a disease that impacts wheat at the flowering stage.

Many growers are already expressing concerns over head scab due to high levels of ear mold in last year's corn crop. The same fungus that causes ear rot also causes head scab in wheat. However, Paul says that it is too early to tell if head scab will be a problem this year, since it will depend on the weather conditions during flowering.