The upcoming forecast of cold temperatures has sparked some concern about damage to the winter wheat crop.
Fortunately, winter wheat is very resistant to cold temperatures during the months of December, January, and February when the plant is dormant. During these months, winter wheat can withstand below freezing temperatures, especially when there is snow cover. In early 2019, Ohio experienced polar vortex temperatures without snow cover. However, no (or minimal) damage was observed in winter wheat (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Polar vortex temperatures with no snow cover in early 2019 resulted in survival of winter wheat.
Besides wheat’s natural ability to be resistant to cold temperatures, plant breeders have developed wheat varieties that are adapted to Ohio’s environments. Occasionally some companies have tried to push North varieties adapted to the Mid-Atlantic region that may be affected by extreme cold. However, most often wheat that has not survived cold temperatures was planted too late for adequate growth, planted too shallow to protect the crown, or too much water on low spots before the cold temperatures.