Following the extremely cold temperatures of last week and this week, there has been great concern over the status of the Texas wheat and small grains crop.
Of course it is too early to tell the full extent of the winterkill damage (needing warmer weather and time) but most reports from across the state are suggesting the damage will be minimal.
Nevertheless, the current crop may not look good coming out of this cold weather. Current symptoms will include leaf tip burning, yellowing, turning white to brown and ultimately leaf death. However, as long as the crown of the plant remains undamaged, these plants will grow back. But winterkill will occur if the freezing temperatures damage the crown of the plant.
Symptoms and the extent of the damage will depend upon the location and the species/variety under question. Earlier this week, several locations across central Texas were rated for damage (Figure 2). There was definitely variation between varieties, but most damage was minimal to moderate.
Unfortunately, the main concern remains the extended dry conditions in the Panhandle, South Plains, Rolling Plains and West Texas. Much of the crop was in poor to fair condition, even before this cold snap. On top of the dry conditions and poor wheat development, the freezing temperatures can cause greater winterkill, compared to a location with adequate moisture and growth. For example, the wheat in Northeast Texas should handle the freezing temperatures better, due to the adequate moisture present.
For more information on winterkill check out the newsletter “Winterkill of Wheat,” which can be found at varietytesting.tamu.edu/wheat.