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By Jim Shroyer
Kansas State

Winter wheatcan normally withstand cold temperatures well as long as soil temperatures atthe depth of the crown are not in the single digits for a prolonged period oftime (see article in eUpdate 434, December 13, 2013). Winter wheat typicallyhas its highest level of winterhardiness in December and January. Leaves onwheat exposed to very cold temperatures may turn brown and die back somewhat,but that doesn't necessarily mean the entire plant is dead. Soil temperature isa more important consideration than air temperature alone during the winter.

In mostcases so far, soil temperatures have not been cold enough to create concern forthe wheat. However, the chart below from Mary Knapp, K-State Weather DataLibrary, shows there are a few areas of concern, especially where soils are dryor there was no snow cover during periods of extreme cold. For example, soiltemperatures at the 2-inch depth reached 9 degrees at Scandia, in Republic County.

Will thiscause some winterkill in those areas? It's too soon to know, but the situationshould be monitored - especially on terrace tops and north-facing slopes. Iwouldn't be surprised if there is some damage to the wheat in parts of northcentral Kansaswhere soil temperatures were this low. Later this winter, producers could digup some plants and bring them inside. After a week or so of warm conditions andwater, wheat should begin greening up if it is alive. Otherwise, producers canwait until spring greenup begins in the field. Areas of dead or dying wheatshould be noticeable at that time. Be aware, however, that damaged wheat maybegin to green up then die back later.

Jim Shroyer,Crop Production Specialist jshroyer@ksu.edu

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