Should you expect any freeze damage to winter wheat?

By Laura LindseyAlexander Lindsey, Ohio State University Extension

The incoming cold temperatures are not likely to impact winter wheat. The magnitude of freeze damage depends on: 1) temperature, 2) duration of temperature, and 3) wheat growth stage.

Prior to the Feekes 6 growth stage, the growing point of wheat is below the soil surface, protected from freezing temperatures. Most of the wheat in Ohio is at the Feekes 4 (beginning of erect growth) or Feekes 5 (leaf sheaths strongly erect) growth stage and should be unaffected by the incoming cold temperatures, predicted to be mid- to low 20s on Wednesday and Thursday.

At Feekes 6 growth stage, our research has shown only a 5% reduction in wheat yield at a temperature of 20°F for 15-minute duration and 50% reduction in wheat yield at a temperature of 12°F for 15-minute duration. (Although, it should be noted, there is a great deal of variability in response due to environmental conditions for the remainder of the growing season. Additionally, greater soil moisture levels can help buffer against short-term temperature fluctuations.)

For more information on Freeze Symptoms and Associated Yield Loss in Soft Red Winter Wheat, please see our new FactSheet: https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/anr-93

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