Wheat will start to break winter dormancy once temperatures consistently reach the mid-30s and 40s. At that point, growers will have a better idea of how the crop fared over the winter.
But for some farmers who prefer to topdress nitrogen fertilizer when the ground is still frozen, waiting until green-up presents other challenges.
“Growers have to decide whether they want to spend the money to topdress wheat that might not be alive, or if they want to wait until green-up and then risk having to topdress nitrogen on soggy soils,” Casteel said.
Another option is to topdress a lower nitrogen rate now, observe wheat condition at green-up, and then topdress liquid nitrogen at the jointing growth stage if wheat is viable. Casteel said that while this option isn’t ideal, it is possible.
For farmers who find that wheat is in extremely poor condition, Casteel said it might make sense to tear out the crop and plant a spring cash crop such as corn or soybean.
“There are some bad-looking fields out there that were exposed to extreme cold with no snow,” he said. “Some of those fields are completely brown, which means they don’t have any green tissue for photosynthesis.”
More information about winter injury to wheat and wheat production in general is available in Purdue Extension’s Wheat Field Guide. The guide is available for $5 from Purdue Extension’s The Education Store (http://www.the-education-store.com) by searching for “ID-448.”