Agronomist Shawn Conley from the University of Missouri said he recommends scouting winter Wheat as it greens up in the spring, which can be an excellent time to determine stand loss, assess crop health and plan some spring management actions.
By scouting and taking necessary remedial action in the spring, growers can better ensure that their crop reaches it yield potential, he said in a release from the university.
It is important to determine stand loss, and cold winter temperatures can contribute to winterkill, particularly if the growing point was too near the surface or if there was too little snow cover or surface residue.
Cold injury is influenced by the physiological condition of the plants when the cold snap occurs, genetic differences in cultivar hardiness and snow cover and moisture conditions during the cold period.
If the Wheat had a chance to "harden" over time, there was snow and residue cover and winter temperatures were not too severe, thus winterkill should be a small risk. Snow and residue cover insulate the crop, but some winterkill will probably be seen.
"As a general rule, a Wheat crop can compensate for stand losses up to 40 percent without affecting yield significantly," Conley said. The Wheat crop can compensate for plant loss by producing more tillers per plant in areas where there are fewer plants.
Conley said in the release he recommends digging up a few plants that appear dead and wrap them in a paper towel. Bring them indoors and see if they revive. If stand losses exceed 40 to 50 percent, then replanting should be considered.
Farmers also need to consider when to apply nitrogen in the spring. Topdressing allows farmers to evaluate yield potential based on stands and soil moisture in the spring, which gives a significant advantage because it can help the producer avoid investing in a Wheat crop that has low yield potential.
The actual amount applied depends on yield goals, residual soil nitrate, crop rotation and if nitrogen applications are split during the growing season. Wheat following soybeans and Wheat following a drought-stressed crop requires less nitrogen, while Wheat following corn would require more nitrogen.
Because of drier conditions last year, it would be worthwhile to do a nitrate test in the spring to account for any residual nitrate. Reflect that in your spring nitrogen recommendation.
Conley said in the release if less than 70 tillers a square foot are present at spring green-up, nitrogen should be applied to stimulate tiller production. More tillers translate into more seeds harvested. If more than 70 tillers per square foot are present, nitrogen application can be delayed.
Conley said to be cautious as ground-applied nitrogen should be applied before jointing to avoid damage to the crop.
Along with crop health, it is also important to assess winter annual weed competition. For fields that were not treated with herbicide last fall at planting time, spring scouting is more critical to get weeds under control.
"Should a spring application be necessary, be sure to look for double- crop planting restrictions if you plan to follow Wheat with soybeans," Conley said.