Carrie Knott, Extension Agronomist-Princeton, University of Kentucky
Record low temperatures with little to no snow cover last week may have caused some damage on the wheat crop in Kentucky.Fortunately, the wheat crop is in the tillering growth stage. At this stage freeze damage usually causes only slight to moderate yield reductions.
Most wheat fields look very yellow from the road or from afar. However, only minor freeze damage, yellowing of leaf tips, is found upon closer inspection in the field. The full extent of damage will not be known until there are at least 4 days with temperatures exceeding 40°F to promote plant growth. At this time of the year it could be several weeks or longer before this occurs. Once plant growth begins due to adequate temperature inspect fields for signs of severe freeze damage. These include yellowing of the growing point and limp leaves.
An additional concern for wheat stands and yield potential is heaving. If extreme temperature changes occur the freezing and thawing cycle may push wheat plants out of the soil. This will result in reduced stands and could ultimately affect yield if heaving occurs on a large percentage of the field.
For now, we will have to wait for warmer temperatures before we can determine the extent of freeze damage, if any, has occurred.