Subfreezing Temperatures Put Ohio Wheat at Risk
Last Friday's (1/17) sub-zero temperatures and lack of snow cover have put most of Ohio's soft-red winter wheat at risk for winter injury, says Ohio State University plant pathologist Pat Lipps.
Temperatures reported as low as the minus teens in some areas harmed the late-planted wheat crop that had not achieved enough growth to withstand the effects of severe weather, Lipps says. Unfortunately, the recent cold spell did not bring sufficient snow to insulate the tender crop, he says.
"The cold temperatures without snow, and an ice cover in some areas, are pretty critical," Lipps says. "We're pretty concerned about it. We can't really give a prediction on the potential for stand losses yet."
Northwest Ohio was particularly hard-hit due to the effects of a storm that brought freezing rain on Wednesday night (1/15) and Thursday morning. A one-inch ice layer remained on the ground Friday due to extremely low temperatures. The Northwestern Branch of OSU's Agricultural Research and Development Center reported a low of minus-8 degrees Friday morning, says farm manager Paul Houdashelt.
"We have a thick coating of ice on the ground," Houdashelt reported Friday.
The lack of snow cover is apparent throughout the most of the state except for the extreme northeast, Lipps says. Generally 2-3 inches of snow is sufficient insulation, but the northeast was in "good shape" with 12 to 18 inches of snow, he says.
Lipps says a temperature rise to the 20- or 30-degree range would be the best thing for winter wheat. Anything less that than without snow cover makes wheat susceptible to winter injury.
"The longer it stays cold like this without snow cover, the more critical it will be for the crop," Lipps says.
Ohio's crop is vulnerable because it didn't grow enough prior to going into dormancy. Wheat ideally needs two to three tillers to survive winter, but the late-planted crop only had one to two tillers.
"Wheat has to have sufficient carbohydrates to make it through the winter," Lipps says. "The lower the carbohydrates, the greater the chances for winter injury."
Ohio farmers planted their wheat late because they were busy harvesting delayed soybeans. On average, farmers planted winter wheat 2 to 2-1/2 weeks late.