The University of Kentucky Research and Education Center hosted an emergency wheat freeze damage training to help producers assess potential damage and helped them make appropriate management decisions.

"UK small grain specialists have organized a combined indoor/outdoor program that will address this issue from diagnosis to decision-making,” said John Grove, director of the UKREC.

The state enjoyed a mild winter, which caused a significant amount of wheat to grow at an accelerated pace. Wheat in the jointing stage is damaged by temperatures equal to or below 24 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours or more. The temperatures at the Kentucky Mesonet Station in Caldwell County were at or below this threshold for six hours during the night of March 14-15. Temperatures dipped below the mark for nine hours on the night of March 15-16. Morning lows recorded at the same weather station were 20 degrees on March 15 and 18 degrees on March 16.

UK specialists encouraged producers to bring whole wheat plant samples from their farm to assess and compare with non-damaged wheat.

“The key is to determine the number of healthy tillers that remain,” said Carrie Knott, UK grain crops specialist. “This will help determine yield potential of the field and ultimately the decision to keep or destroy the crop.”

During this hands-on training, specialists went over the distinct physical characteristics of freeze damage, including a plant dissection demonstration.

Specialists were also able to discuss decision economics, implications of chemical and nitrogen applications to various ‘use or lose’ options – especially wheat grazing/haying potential and impacts to the following corn or soybean crop, and conducted a broad question and answer session.

Topics included:

  • Wheat Freeze Overview
  • Economic Considerations
  • Chemical Residues and Future Implications
  • Nitrogen Contribution to Corn if Wheat is Terminated
  • Livestock Feeding Potential if Grain is Not Harvested
  • Plant Dissection for Freeze Damage Demo
  • Hands-On Wheat Freeze Assessment

Emergency Wheat Freeze Meeting

Freeze damaged heads (left) are typically white and milky while healthy heads (right) are glossy with serrated edges