As the snow begins to melt and we finally put the 2013-14 winter behind us, many growers and consultants alike are beginning to venture out to their winter wheat fields to assess winter injury. Though it is premature to make any rash decisions, here are a few considerations for assessing your spring 2014 winter wheat stands.
1. As you look across your wheat landscape, vibrant green patches will be interspersed with drab brown areas. The brown areas do not necessarily indicate those plants are dead.
Growers and consultants can either reassess in a week or pull plants from the field and place in warm environments. Milk houses and kitchens work perfect. Root regrowth will appear from the crown and will appear as vibrant white roots as shown below.
If plants do not recover, the critical threshold for turning over a field is 12 to 15 live plants per square foot. Below this threshold is an automatic replant. For more detailed information on assessing winterkill, please view Wheat Stand Assessment, Winterkill Yield Loss, and Nitrogen Application
2. Evaluate tiller number and make the N timing decisions. It’s important to remember that the functional purpose of spring N is to: 1) Stimulate tillering, and 2) Provide crop nutrition. If ample tillering (> 70 tillers per square foot) has occurred growers can delay N applications up to pre-joint (Feekes 4-5; Zadoks 30). This practice will aid in minimizing early spring N loss. Applications of N made after this growth stage may lead to wheel track damage.
If growers have < 70 tillers per square foot it is important to get across those fields as soon as possible to minimize yield loss due to low tiller/head counts. For more information on tiller counts and spring N timing please view the YouTube video entitled: Wheat Stand Assessment and Nitrogen Timing.
3. Lastly, remember that wheat grain in itself is only part of the revenue you capture with winter wheat. The price of winter wheat straw remains strong so please consider that revenue stream before any replant decisions are made.