Winter damage on wheat

Friday, April 13, 2007

Area wheat and livestock producers need to take special care when it comes to using the 2007 wheat and small grain crops for either forage or grain. The recent extremely cold temperatures can cause a major problem for area producers.

Producers wanting to harvest cold damaged small grains for hay or haylage will need to have these crops tested for nitrates if the fields were top dressed late or when soil moisture has been low. Removing these crops can give deadly results if fed to livestock when high levels of nitrates are present.

Everything is in the correct order to have some major problems especially since the soil moisture is at a very low level. The University of Tennessee Extension Service Forage Testing lab in Nashville will provide screening for free if producers will get samples to the lab. The initial screenings can be done in a very short time frame, but will have to be worked in around the regular work that is done at that office.

If the sample tests positive for nitrates, a quantitative test will be done on the sample and the results of that test will take sometime between 24 -- 72 hours.

The Marshall County Extension office can provide information sheets for producers as well as directions to the lab if they want to take samples for testing. It is strongly recommend that producers that are planning on using their wheat crop as forage for livestock take their time in deciding to harvest their small grain. Testing for nitrates is a must if you are going to harvest small grains for forage.

Producers need to consider the following information in deciding on whether to leave their wheat crops for grain or harvest it for forage. According to Dr. Jason Kelly, with the University of Arkansas Extension Service and the Nebraska Extension Service, producers need to consider the following information on how to harvest their wheat crop.

Wheat in the boot stage can have the potential for severe damage if temperatures drop as low as 28 degrees and stay there for at least 2 hours. As wheat begins to head and nears flowering, temperatures at 30 degrees for two hours has the potential for severe injury. While predicting injury to a wheat crop depends on factors such as; stage of growth, wind speed and land topography, the biggest concern is air temperature and duration of the lowest temperature. Producers need to remember that damage to a wheat crop may take several days to weeks for symptoms to fully appear.