By Dr. Laura Lindsey, Assistant Professor, Ohio State University

Wheat stem measurement tool

Figure 1. This wheat stem measurement tool can be used to consistently count the number of stems one foot of row.

Between planting in the fall and Feekes 4 growth stage (beginning of erect growth) in the spring, winter wheat is vulnerable to environmental stress such as freezing temperatures with limited snow cover, saturated soils, and freeze-thaw cycles that cause soil heaving. All of which may lead to substantial stand reduction.

However, a stand that looks thin in the spring does not always correspond to lower grain yield. Rather than relying on a visual stand assessment, farmers should estimate the yield potential of their winter wheat crop by counting stems, before deciding whether a field should be destroyed. An alternative method to evaluate wheat stand is fractional green canopy cover (FGCC). Fractional green canopy cover can be used to measure the canopy surface area using the mobile device application Canopeo. The app can be downloaded for free here:

Wheat Stem Count Methods: Wheat stems (main stem plus tillers) should be counted at Feekes 5 growth stage (leaf sheaths strongly erect) from one linear foot of row from several areas within a field (Figure 1).



Fractional Green Canopy CoverC app screenshot

Figure 2. The Canopeo app can be used to measure wheat canopy at Feekes 5 growth stage.





Fractional Green Canopy Cover Methods: Fractional green canopy cover should be measured at Feekes 5 growth stage using the mobile device application, Canopeo ( The camera should be held at a height to capture three rows of wheat in the image (Figure 2). In this. case, a winter malting barley image is analyzed for fractional green canopy cover with the Canopeo mobile device application.

After counting the number of wheat stems or measuring FGCC, Table 1 can be used to estimate wheat grain yield. For example, if an average of 51 stems is counted from one foot length of row, the predicted grain yield would be 100 bu/acre. Similarly, if the average FGCC measurement was 35%, the predicted grain yield would be 100 bu/acre.

Table 1. Estimated grain yield based on number of stems and
fractional green canopy cover (FGCC).
Grain Yield
Stem Count
(# per foot of row)


27 17
9042 34 23
9580 42 29
100 51 35
105 63 41
110 80 47
115 100 53
120 --- 59
125 --- 65
130 --- 71