Central Texas wheat takes a hit, but it could have been worse
DR. GAYLON MORGAN/Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
An uninjured head of wheat (left) is compared to a plant that is yellowed and not exerting a head due to freeze injury at the growing point. Once the plant’s growing point is damaged, the head stops moving up and the leaves die, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agronomists.
COLLEGE STATION -- There was considerable damage to Central Texas wheat from a late-March freeze, but it could have been a lot worse, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service crops expert.
“We still don’t know the full extent of the damage,” said Dr. Travis Miller, AgriLife Extension agronomist and Texas A&M University soil and crop sciences associate department head. “Some areas were pretty severely hit and some less so.”
During early April, Miller, with Dr. Gaylon Morgan and Dr. Clark Neely, both also AgriLife Extension agronomists, along with county agents, toured various sites and conducted wheat-freeze clinics in the Blacklands, where wheat was more mature and therefore more likely to suffer damage from temperatures that in some cases dropped into the mid-20s.
“The good news appears to come from the High Plains. Although there were some reports of injury, it was not extensive -- just a little here and there,” Miller said.
However, a major cold front was predicted in the Panhandle during the night of March 9 that has the potential to cause damage to the area’s wheat, he noted.
In Central Texas, where there was more damage from the March freeze, it’s still hard to estimate how many acres of wheat were damaged, he said.
“It’s a situation where the upper part of your field may be okay, and the lower third of it may have 20 or 25 percent damage. You just struggle to get a number on something like that.”
Miller said he and his colleagues saw two types of injury during their wheat-freeze clinics.
“We saw lot of sterilization of heads,” he said. “And then we had stem injury where it ruptured the water and nutrient carrying vessels in the stem, and the plant just quit carrying water and the leaves were drying up. There’s some of both kinds of damage, but obviously the plant can’t recover if the growing point or the head freezes. It just dies.”
Miller said he and his colleagues also saw quite a bit of freeze injury to corn, but that this crop will generally recover.
“Overall, the damage was not nearly as extensive as I’ve seen in some freezes in the past,” he said. “Certainly if you’re one of those farmers who had more advanced wheat, it looks pretty severe to you.”
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries for the week from April 1-8:
AgriLife Extension district reporters for the Southwest District, including Wilson, Gonzales, Guadalupe, and Bexar counties, reported widespread showers and thunderstorms brought 1 inch to 6 inches of rain, alleviating drought stress, and helping spring-grass growth and field crops. Farmers finished planting corn and were preparing cotton fields. Rangeland and pastures improved, but were still slightly below average and lacked adequate moisture for grass growth. As a result, livestock producers had to continue supplemental feeding of cattle.
AgriLife Extension district reporters for the Coastal Bend District, including Karnes County, reported some areas reported rain, but accumulations varied widely, from as little as 0.1 inch to as much as 4 inches. About half of DeWitt County got from 1 inch to 3 inches, while the rest of the county received only trace amounts. In Wharton County, rainstorms were also fickle, with the north end of the county getting from 2.5 to almost 4 inches, while the southern part of the county got as little as 0.3 inch. The county got some golf-ball size hail with the rain. The extent of any damage to corn, sorghum, and cotton fields, if any, was not yet determined. Karnes County had limited rainfall in the last two months, but it was enough to cause corn to emerge.
Robert Burns has nearly 30 years’ experience writing about agriculture and agricultural-related research. He writes about Texas AgriLife Research and Texas AgriLife Extension Service activities at the Overton Center and centers in Stephenville and Temple.