Significant rainfall last fall helped get wheat off to a good start over much of the Texas wheat production area, according to Dr. Clark Neely, AgriLife Extension small grains specialist in College Station.
The High Plains, however, missed most of that precipitation and that slow start, plus freezing temperatures in January have many concerned about crop prospects.
Oklahoma wheat has also suffered freeze damage in some locations. But Northeast Texas wheat, though slowed somewhat by cold temperatures, seems to be in fairly good shape, according to farmers and Extension reports.
Neely said soils have been fully recharged for most of East Texas and enough moisture has fallen to give consistent stands west to San Angelo and north to Abilene and Vernon.
Fall rains may have hampered some farmers. Wet conditions kept some acres from being planted in the Blacklands – something not seen in recent history.
Collin County farmer Butch Aycock says he would have planted a bit more wheat last fall but did not want to “mud it in.”
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Texas AgriLife Extension IPM specialist Jim Swart said most wheat farmers in the Northeast corner of the state got most of their wheat acreage planted. “We have seen no freeze damage on wheat crops,” he added.
It’s a different situation in the High Plains.
“Unfortunately, the High Plains received little of these beneficial rains and wheat producers struggled to get their crop up and out of the ground this fall,” Neely said. “Drought-stressed wheat also had to endure frigid temperatures during the past month, which have some concerned about the possibility of winterkill on small wheat.”
Although single-digit temperatures were common throughout the Panhandle, earlier cold snaps may have helped wheat plants acclimate and become less susceptible to extreme cold.
“Healthy, acclimated wheat plants should be able to handle single-digit temperatures without significant damage; however, drought-stressed plants are more susceptible to cold temperatures for multiple reasons,” Neely said.
“Dry soil does little to buffer temperature change and makes growing points more vulnerable under the soil surface. Additionally, drought-stressed plant tissue is less able to cope with leaf damage.”
Oklahoma Extension wheat specialist Jeff Edwards says freeze injury ranges from moderate to severe.
“The damage is not as widespread or severe as I thought it would be given that most of our wheat had not had an opportunity to harden off,” Edwards said. “The dry soil conditions in western and southern Oklahoma did not help the situation, as there was not sufficient soil moisture to buffer the temperature shift in the top few inches of soil.”
He expects little yield loss from the last cold snap. “Freeze injury at this stage of growth (tillering) rarely impacts grain yield, but, as always, there are a few exceptions. Wheat that was very small or late-sown is more susceptible to winter kill. Similarly, wheat that does not have a good root system or that was shallow sown due to crop residue is more susceptible to winter kill.”
He recommends that farmers wait a few days after more favorable growing conditions to assess damage. “Plants with regrowth that is green and healthy should make a full recovery, and this will be the case for most Oklahoma wheat fields.”