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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Wheat Growers Watching Weather in Ohio as Crops Are Ahead Two Weeks and Could Result in Strong Yields or Diseased Fields

May 11, 2012

WOOSTER, Ohio -- Wheat is already heading in some fields in northern and central Ohio and is flowering in some fields in the southern third of the state, some two weeks earlier than expected, according to an Ohio State University Extension wheat researcher. 

But this has growers wondering if it is a good thing or bad. 

While cool weather conditions over the last few weeks have worked to slow wheat down considerably, the development of the crop is still at least a week or two ahead of what is considered to be normal in Ohio at this time of year, said Pierce Paul, who is also a plant pathologist with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.

This has left producers questioning whether such early development will have a negative effect on their crop, he said. But there is no easy answer to such a question; it all depends on the weather conditions over the next several weeks.

“Our big issue is that we are ahead of schedule, causing some concern, understandably so, because most wheat growers haven’t seen wheat head out and flower in early May,” Paul said. “That’s left growers experiencing a fear of the unknown, more than anything else.”

If cool weather occurs during most of the month of May, it could mean a nice, extended grain fill period, which is significant, considering that Ohio’s grain fill period is relatively short compared to other areas.

“Which would mean decent yields if the weather stays cool,” he said. “Cool conditions will also reduce the development of foliar and head diseases such as Stagonospora and head scab, especially if it remains dry.

“But wheat heading or flowering at the end of April or in early May is at greater risk for freezing injury.”

In fact, two hours or more of exposure to 30 degrees could cause severe damage to wheat at the heading growth stage. Less injury could be expected if plants are exposed to less than two hours of freezing temperatures, Paul said.

But on the flip side, if the weather gets warmer and wetter, it could also have a negative effect on the crop, he said.

“Warm, humid conditions favor disease development, and if not managed with a well-timed fungicide application, further grain yield and quality losses will likely occur,” Paul said. “Wheat growers always have to be diligent with their fields because of how sensitive wheat is to the weather.

“But with this spring having such atypical weather, they have to be even more so.”

He advises growers to continually monitor their crops and to scout fields for foliar diseases and visit the head scab forecasting website ( to determine the risk of head scab. 

“If you see foliar disease on the second leaf down and you have a susceptible variety, then you want to use a fungicide,” Paul said.

“If you don’t protect your crop from disease with fungicides, this could mean lower yields and grain quality, and consequently, lost money.

“But also if you apply fungicide when you don’t need it, you could also lose money. Growers are going to have to really watch the weather over the next few weeks.”


Tracy Turner
Pierce Paul