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Most Wheat Endures Frozen Temperatures
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Some Mississippi wheat fields experienced minimal damage from the freezing temperatures the second week of March, but for a few, the damage was beyond recovery.
"Severe damage has been found from as far south as Natchez to throughout North Mississippi," said Dr. Erick Larson, agronomist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service. "Growers need to closely inspect their fields to evaluate the extent of the freeze injury."
Ann Ruscoe, Coahoma County's Extension agricultural agent, said most of the damage is on the more mature wheat that was planted early, behind corn. Less than 5 percent of the county's 20,000 wheat acres experienced devastating damage.
"Wheat that was not as far along had some leaf or stem damage, but to a lesser degree. You can find damage in other fields, but the younger wheat should be able to compensate for any damage," Ruscoe said. "We still have a chance for a good crop."
Larson said injured plants will have yellow to brown internodes, usually between the first and second nodes. Severely damaged stems will be brown, limp, shriveled or collapsed. Growers should dissect the stem to see the condition of the head.
"New tillers will develop from the base of damaged plants, but canopies may inhibit their ability to compete with other stems. Because of this, in severe cases, crop abandonment may be the most practical option," Larson said.
Although Mississippi's crop was better than last year's crop going into the freeze, the damage will bring yields down. The agronomist said the freeze could have reduced our statewide yield by 25 to 30 percent.
"Wheat was one or two stages ahead of normal when the freeze hit. The further along the crop is, the more susceptible it will be to freeze damage," Larson said.
Mississippi has had two good wheat seasons in recent years, averaging 42 bushels per acre last year and 49 bushels in 1996. Larson said Mississippi will be lucky to average 40 bushels this year.