A mid-April freeze that turned temperatures from balmy high 70s degree readings to several points below freezing likely caused damage to a significant portion of the Southwest wheat crop, according to crop specialists across the region.

Jeff Edwards, Oklahoma State University Extension wheat specialist in Stillwater, in a blog following the April 15 freeze, said much of the state’s wheat crop could be vulnerable. “Most of Oklahoma spent at least four hours below freezing last night and some areas spent an extended period of time below 28 degrees,” he wrote. “While temperatures in the wheat canopy might have remained slightly higher than reported air temperatures, they were still probably low enough to result in significant injury to wheat.”

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Much of the state’s wheat crop was at risk, says Clark Neely, AgriLife Extension small grains and oilseed specialist, College Station. He said wheat in the Panhandle and Rolling Plains, even with lower temperatures — mostly in the mid-20s —was not as likely to have been injured as in the Central and West Central regions because the wheat in those areas was not as far along in development.

Some isolated south Plains areas, with even lower temperatures—mid-20s to upper teens—could see significant damage. Temperatures that low pose a high chance of wheat in any stage, Neely said.

“Based upon what I’ve seen, I would anticipate potential freeze injury anywhere from the Waco to Dallas area and westward to the Concho Valley and San Angelo area,” he said. “Primarily because that’s where the crop was flowering, and flowering is when the crop is most susceptible to freeze damage.”

A later than usual wheat crop—delayed because of a cool spring and ongoing drought—may have helped avoid some cold damage. Most Texas High Plains wheat was still in the jointing stage.

Generally, when wheat is flowering, freeze damage can occur when temperatures are as high as 32 degrees and stay there for two hours or more, he said.

It was very “touch and go, and flirting with the freezing mark” in those central parts of the state, Neely said. Soil moisture, plant-moisture content, whether it’s windy or calm, and field terrain also affect cold damage.

“Wind can be good or bad, depending upon how cold it gets,” Neely said. “If it’s a still night, the cold will settle down in the low-lying areas. So it’s good in the sense that wind keeps the air stirred up, but it can also spread freeze damage across a wider area.

“Unfortunately, one county over — or even one field over — there can be a degree difference. Anytime you get down to that 32-degree mark, it gets kind of tricky with flowering wheat. He recommended that farmers scout their fields and pay attention to what the weather conditions were like.