Warmer Weather Spurs Ohio Wheat Crop Growth03/28/2016
The calendar may say that this is just the first few days of spring, but some wheat crops aren’t paying attention to the dates on the page.
In some areas in central Ohio, wheat is already at Feekes growth stage 5, which in a typical year doesn’t happen until early April, said Laura Lindsey, a soybean and small grains specialist with Ohio State University Extension.
OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.
The earlier growth stages for some Ohio winter wheat crops is thanks to the warm-up experienced in many areas of the state recently, Lindsey said.
Ahead of schedule
“Wheat growers can’t look to the calendar date this year to judge their crop’s growth stages simply because it’s been so warm recently,” she said. “We haven’t seen a year like this in recent times, so our recommendation is for growers to go out and check their wheat plants to judge their growth stages.
“Wheat in some areas in central and south-central Ohio are already in Feekes growth stage 5, and some wheat crops in northwest Ohio are already at early green-up.”
Lindsey said it is important for growers to track the growth stages of their wheat crops because management decisions are made based on the plant’s growth patterns.
“Generally, Feekes growth stage 6 occurs in southern Ohio during early April,” she said.
“However, with the abnormally warm temperatures, Feekes growth stage 6, which is also known as jointing, may occur weeks sooner. So it’s important that growers go out and stage the wheat now to understand where their crops are in their development to be able to make the right management choices.”
One of those management decisions is when to apply nitrogen to wheat, she said.
“Wheat needs nitrogen at Feekes growth stage 6, which could be in about a week or two this year,” Lindsey said. “So, for some growers, now maybe the time to apply nitrogen.”
To determine if wheat is in Feekes growth stage 6, growers can:
- Dig up several clusters of tillers with roots and soil from multiple locations in the field.
- Identify and select three to four primary tillers from each cluster – usually the largest tillers with the thickest stem.
- Strip away and remove all the lower leaves, which are usually small and yellowish or dead leaves, exposing the base of the stem.
- Look for the first node generally between 1 and 2 inches above the base of the stem. This node is usually seen as a slightly swollen area of a slightly different (darker) shade of green than the rest of the stem.
A video on identifying Feekes growth stage 6 can also be viewed at youtube.com/watch?v=iukwznx4DPk.
Source: Purdue University Extension