Skip to main content

Did My Winter Wheat and Winter Rye Survive the Last Cold Snap?

Temperatures keep gyrating back and forth between hard freezes and very mild conditions.  I had received several reports that winter wheat and winter rye had started to green up before last week's return to freezing temperatures. You may be wondering whether the fields survived this last cold snap.

The month of March truly is the 'witching hour' for winter wheat and winter rye. The crowns are aging and as a result, are less winterhardy than they were in December and January. I also explained in an earlier article that the crop is not able to return to the same level of winterhardiness if warm weather allows the crop to break dormancy. , 

To evaluate whether your winter wheat survived the last cold snap, I suggest you do the following: dig up several seedlings across the field and cut them longitudinal (lengthwise) with a very sharp knife or a safety razor blade. If the crowns look white/yellow to light green, they are healthy and will continue to grow. If you find that the crown has turned tan to brown and soft, it did not survive the cold weather.  

In addition, you can check whether seedlings will grow by trimming the roots and leaves down to about ¼  to ½ ” above and below the crown. Place these seedlings on a wet paper towel and place the towel in a Ziploc bag or plastic container that can be sealed. Place the container at room temperature and check for regrowth in 24-48 hours. Viable seedlings will show regrowth almost immediately (Photo 1).  It will take longer than usual, but as long as the crown is healthy, a stand will be established.

Photo 1 - Regrowth on winter crowns after 48 hrs at room temperature. 
Note the cut marks on the old leaves and the new growth. 


Print Friendly and PDF