What is in this article?:
- AgriLife Extension experts survey region to determine damage
- Maturity mattered
- Freezes take their toll; but don’t count Texas wheat out yet.
- A late March and three April freezes hit wheat in advanced growing stages.
- The total picture will be revised yet again by May 1, as another hard freeze occurred April 23-24.
Dr. Calvin Trostle, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agronomist from Lubbock, explains how to assess wheat damage at a producer meeting in the South Plains.
Neely said maturity ranged from mid-jointing to flowering at the first April freeze, sometimes within the same field. South Plains’ wheat was in the boot stage, with a few fields beginning to flower. High Plains’ wheat was later, mid-jointing, but still far enough along to experience damage. Rolling Plains temperatures were not as severe, but much of the wheat was flowering and at the most vulnerable development stage.
Wheat is generally more sensitive as it goes through the various stages, he said. At the jointing stage, damage can occur when temperatures drop to 22 degrees; at the boot stage, 28 degrees; heading, 30 degrees; and flowering, 32 degrees.
Normally, producers can anticipate potentially significant freeze damage after two hours of exposure to those temperatures, Neely said. However, temperatures and field conditions – moisture, wind and elevation and stage of growth – can vary between and within fields, which can and does affect the amount of freeze damage.
The hardest hit area during the April 17-18 scouting was in the Ochiltree County area, Trostle said. Samples and the drive-by observation of fields there were dominated by collapsed canopies and damaged stems, especially on younger wheat.
“We believe the issue of susceptibility in this case was the initial tenderness of young tillers that are potentially more susceptible to freeze damage,” he said. “Stems were collapsed on many plants, and some just appeared ragged, especially on the bottom of the plant.”
Wheat that went down after the April 10 freeze had not shown signs of standing back up, he said. This, combined with significant presence of dead growing points, compounds the reduced regrowth or recovery potential of yield or even harvestable forage.
“It is quite possible that half of the fields in the Perryton area may go to hay,” Trostle said.
Scott Strawn, AgriLife Extension agent in Ochiltree County, said, “Before the last freeze, I expected 75 to 85 percent of the dryland (wheat) to be abandoned due to drought and freeze, and 25 to 30 percent of the irrigated to not be harvested for grain. After the April 24 freeze, both those figures could be higher.”
If there are no more freeze events, cooler, wetter weather may help wheat plants recover to a limited extent from freeze damage, Neely said. Unfortunately, much of the wheat-producing regions of Texas also are contending with drought, which can negatively affect yields and recovery from freeze damage.