Wheat and Freezing Injury

Richard Taylor, Extension Agronomy Specialist; rtaylor@udel.edu

Since the unusually cold temperatures last week and with many fields showing at least leaf burn from the very low morning temperatures, I thought it might be worthwhile to include here some information from the University of Kentucky about freeze injury on wheat. Reprinted below is Table 1 from an article by Chad Lee and Jim Herbek, Extension Grain Crops Specialists with the University of Kentucky and originally printed in Wheat Science News, Vol. 11, Issue 1 for April 2007 and published by the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service. Wheat losses from cold temperatures depend on the growth stage of the wheat, the air temperature in the canopy, the duration of the temperature, and possibly the sensitivity of the wheat related to the amount of nitrogen (N) applied (the higher the N rate, the more tender the tissue). It is important for growers to scout frost-susceptible small grain fields to keep abreast of yield potential for their marketing plans.


Photo 1. Winter injured wheat showing leaf burn but this wheat had not reached the jointing stage.





injurious temperature

(2 hours


Primary Symptoms Effect on Yield Potential


12˚ F. Leaf chlorosis; burning of leaf tips; silage odor; blue cast to fields Slight to moderate


24˚ F. Death of growing point; leaf yellowing or burning; lesions, splitting, or bending of lower stem; odor Moderate to severe


28˚ F. Floret sterility; spike trapped in boot; damage to lower stem; leaf discoloration; odor Moderate to severe


30˚ F. Floret sterility; white awns or white spikes; damage to lower stem; leaf discoloration Severe


30˚ F. Floret sterility; white awns or white spikes; damage to lower stem; leaf discoloration Severe


28˚ F. White awns or white spikes; damage to lower stems; leaf discoloration; shrunken, roughened, or discolored kernels Moderate to severe
Dough (11.2) 28˚ F. Shriveled, discolored kernels; poor germination Slight to moderate

a Numbers in parentheses refer to the Feekes’ scale.

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