By Jason Kelley, Wheat and Feed Grains Extension Agronomist
I wanted to give you a quick wheat freeze update. Very cold temperatures were recorded over eastern Arkansas and particularly Northeast Arkansas during the night and early morning hours of March 14/15th this week. Much of Northeast Arkansas had 10-12 hours of temperatures below freezing, but more importantly had temperatures of 28 degrees F or lower for 4-8 hours depending on location. Low temperatures were generally in the low to mid-20’s in Northeast Arkansas, but there was likely a lot of variation from the reporting stations vs outlying areas. A low of 24 degrees F was reported as far south as Phillips County (Helena area) by an Arkansas Plant Board Weather Station. Memphis tied their record low for the day of 25 degrees F. The Arkansas River Valley area also reported temperatures low enough to be damaging to wheat. Wheat growth stages ranged considerably across the state, but in most areas where temperatures dropped below 28 degrees wheat was at the Feekes 7-8 growth stage. With the low temperatures and wheat growth stage, varying levels of damage likely occurred. I got several calls yesterday morning that ice had formed in the lower stems, indicating main tiller damage is likely in some areas.
Diagnosing Damage: It will take several days before we can begin to determine the extent of freeze damage. Temperatures are forecast to warm considerably over the weekend and into next week which should make accessing damage easier. Lower stem damage (soft, broken over stems) and damaged heads are two areas to evaluate. The hope is that there still may be enough late tillers that can compensate if the main tillers are damaged.
I will provide another update next week with details of symptoms and hopefully a better idea of the level of injury.
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