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Southeastern Wheat Crop Far From Disaster

This is the second year in a row for an atypical winter wheat crop in the southeast. NC State Small Grain Specialist Dr. Randy Weisz explains this year’s crop is all over the board:

“There are some fields where the wheat is looking a month behind, where it is just barely tillering and small. And there are other fields where the wheat looks too far ahead. Those are a bit rare. These conditions seem to be more field to field rather than regional. Whether it has to do with planting before or after the hurricane or the period of drought last fall… the wheat is all over the place. The only consistency is they all need nitrogen.”

But, Weisz explains that fields that have had a nitrogen application look really good:

“For those who have gotten the nitrogen out in the last ten days, that wheat just looks really great. Its really taken advantage of what warm weather we have had. The wheat that hasn’t gotten any nitrogen on it yet is really looking like it needs it.”

Friday morning saw temperatures in the mid to low 20’s for lows, which at this stage of development can be damaging to wheat. Weisz comments on the possibility of freeze damage:

“The general wheat guidelines for freezing temperatures, if it hasn’t jointed yet, it can stand temperatures down to 12 degrees. If it has jointed, then we are right on the borderline between 24-26 degrees for two hours is what it can take.”

But, it’s way too early to discount the crop at this point, according to Weisz:

“I don’t think we are in a dangerous situation. We have some fields that are behind, some where they should be and some ahead. If we continue to have a long cool spring that is the best weather for a wheat crop. So its not the best in terms of early development, but its good for grain fill. We may not have phenomenal yields, but we will have good ones.”

Weisz advises growers to stay vigilant in scouting for for stripe rust, and to also now keep an eye out for powdery mildew. The current weather conditions are prime for powdery mildew. is dedicated to serving the agricultural industry in the Carolinas and Virginia with the latest ag news, exclusive regional weather station readings, and key crop market information. The website is a companion of the Southern Farm Network, provider of daily agricultural radio programming to the Carolinas since 1974. presents radio programs, interviews and news relevant to crop and livestock production and research throughout the mid-Atlantic agricultural community.