04/15/12 — Extension: County wheat crop should largely be OK after frost

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Extension: County wheat crop should largely be OK after frost

By Steve Herring
Published in News on April 15, 2012 1:50 AM

Perhaps the most repeated question Cooperative Extension Service Director Kevin Johnson fielded Thursday morning during the 64th annual Junior Livestock Show and Sale dealt with wheat and not the pigs being shown.

Farmer after farmer asked Johnson if he had heard whether the county's early wheat crop had been affected by Wednesday night's cold weather.

It doesn't appear that the weather cooled down enough to damage the crop, but it will be at least one to two weeks before any damage presents itself, he said.

The temperature was anywhere from 34 to 35 throughout the county Wednesday night, he said.

"There was a light frost. It was really light," Johnson said. "Our strawberry growers were frost protecting, but as far as our wheat, the farmers were really nervous I can tell you. I have talked to many of them and they were nervous. I don't think it was enough to hurt our wheat crop.

"Sigh of relief, a sigh of relief. I do think that we dodged a bullet. There may be minimum damage, five percent, because whenever you have frost there is a risk of hurting the pollination of the wheat. But I do think that we dodged that bullet."

There was concern for Thursday night as well, he said. However, Johnson said he thinks Wednesday night was the larger concern.

"Hopefully we won't have any more issues this year with wheat," Johnson said. "Wheat is several weeks of ahead of schedule and we actually have some wheat that is far enough along that a frost probably would not have hurt it. The critical timing with wheat is pollination. If you have a frost or if you have cold temperatures during that pollination time it will kill those fruiting structures. Basically you will end up with wheat that has a head emerge that there is no grain in it at all.

"That is what would have happened if we had had a hard frost or colder temperatures, but we didn't have that. There is a window. If you have that frost and the head has not emerged from the plant it is protected. We do have some wheat around the county that has not headed yet. And we do have wheat that I think is far enough along that frost would have been that damaging."

Most of the county's wheat is within that window and it would have been a problem if there had been a hard frost, he said.

Johnson said he is unsure if there will be another record wheat harvest, but that the crop looks good.

"It is very mature for this time of the year because of the weather," he said. "I don't know what effect that is going to put on it, but I do think it will be a good crop."