Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Reports of Blank Heads in Wheat

Chad Lee, Jim Herbek and Don Hershman, Extension Agronomist, Extension Agronomist and Extension Plant Pathologist, University of Kentucky

There are some reports of wheat with blank heads. The plants look normal and the heads look fairly normal but there are very few of no seeds in the heads. The blank heads occur across the entire field, where for the most part, the plants look normal. Wheat in fields nearby, where heading occurred a few days earlier or later, developed properly. The most likely cause of these blank heads is freeze damage. There were a couple nights in early April when air temperatures were at or below freezing. The small, developing wheat kernel is extremely sensitive to cold temperatures. It is more sensitive than vegetative tissues (leaves and stems). The freeze events possibly caused wheat kernels at a specific stage of development to die, while wheat kernels nearby were either slightly ahead or behind, making them less sensitive to the cold temperatures. The only management at this point is to identify where this is a problem, adjust marketing commitments, and consult with your crop insurance provider.

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