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Agriculture Today

Freeze puts large swatches of Texas wheat at risk of injury

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Robert Burns
April 23, 2014 | 5,222 views | Post a comment

Sub-freezing temperatures on the morning of April 15 put large acreages of Texas wheat at risk for freeze injury, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.

Temperatures were not as low in the Panhandle and Rolling Plains -- mostly in the mid-20s -- and wheat there was not as likely to have been injured as in the Central and West Central regions, said Dr. Clark Neely, AgriLife Extension small grains and oilseed specialist of College Station. This was because the wheat in the Panhandle and Rolling Plains was not as far along in development.

However, in isolated areas of the South Plains, temperatures dropped into the mid-20s to upper teens -- a temperature that poses a high chance of damage at any stage of wheat development, Neely said.

Wheat across the state is one to two weeks behind in development due to a cooler-than-normal spring and the drought, and that is a good thing when it comes to late-spring freezes, Neely said. Most Texas High Plains wheat was still in the jointing stage.

Generally, when wheat is flowering, freeze damage can occur when temperatures are at 32 degrees and stay there for two hours or more, he said.

Many other factors come into play, such as soil moisture, plant-moisture content, whether it’s windy or calm, and the terrain of the field.

Neely doesn’t expect realistic evaluations of the extent of freeze damage to the crop earlier than one week, perhaps two.

“It really depends upon the weather after the freeze. If it becomes hot and dry, we’ll see symptoms a lot sooner. If it stays cool, it’ll take a little bit longer for those symptoms to show up.”

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries for the week of week of April 6-13:

AgriLife Extension district reporters for the Southwest District, including Wilson, Gonzales, Guadalupe, and Bexar counties, reported warm, dry, and windy conditions continued throughout the region. A few counties reported from 0.5 inch to more than 1 inch of rain, a welcome event for rangeland as well as row crops. Pecan trees were budding. Corn and grain sorghum emerged, and cotton growers were wrapping up planting. Wheat, oats were in good condition, as were livestock. Supplemental feeding of livestock continued.

AgriLife Extension district reporters for the Coastal Bend District, including Karnes County, reported dry and windy conditions were reported throughout the district. Corn, sorghum, and cotton emerged and made good progress. Cotton was in the cotyledon stage, where embryonic first leaves were emerging, while most grain sorghum plants were 2 to 4 inches tall. Producers were running rotary hoes to stop soil from blowing. Most corn and grain sorghum fields had excellent stands and were looking good. Winds hampered herbicide spraying and dried out topsoils. Pecan producers were monitoring for pecan nut case bearers. Some ryegrass was baled for hay.

AgriLife Extension district reporters for the South District, including Atascosa County, reported the region continued to have warm days and cool nights. The northern, eastern, and western parts of the region had light, scattered showers. In the northern part of the region, strong winds dried up any moisture received the previous week. In the eastern part of the region, a strong thunderstorm brought 1 inch to 2 inches of rain to Jim Wells County, along with hail that damaged 2,000 acres of row crops. Golf-ball-size hail completely wiped out the corn crop. Grain sorghum and cotton may have survived if seed was not washed out by the pounding rain. In the western counties, temperatures were in the 50s at night and mid-90s during the day -- very favorable temperatures for rangeland and pasture forage growth and crops. Oats were still green, and ryegrass was developing well.

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.

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