Winter wheat should be surviving the cold temperatures pretty well this year, says Bob Fanning, South Dakota State University Extension field agronomist, Winner.
Most of the region's winter wheat was planted into soil that had decent moisture, or received precipitation in early October.
"This alone put the winter wheat in a better situation than the dry conditions of 2012," Fanning says.
Also, both high and low temperatures tapered off fairly gradually this year, allowing the plants to harden off before the recent below zero weather occurred.
Some winter wheat was planted quite late, and either did not, or barely emerged. It may be somewhat less winter hardy than wheat that had time to produce some growth, Fanning says. However, the majority of late planted wheat was planted into protective cover, which should temper severe dips in soil temperatures.
"Moist soil is not as vulnerable to the severe temperature swings that can occur in dry soil, creating a more favorable environment. Winter wheat plants containing adequate moisture are also better able to survive the stresses of winter than those under moisture deficit," he says.
Most of the winter wheat varieties grown in South Dakota have fair to good ratings for winter hardiness, and can withstand temperatures at the crown level of low as 0 – 5 degrees F when properly hardened off and with adequate moisture. Although air temperatures have dipped well below zero several times over the past week or so, for the most part, soil temperatures have remained in the 30's, even at the 2-inch level. This is very typical, as soil temperatures fluctuate much more slowly than do air temperatures. Protective residue further protects the soil from lowering in temperature compared to bare ground, and if that residue is able to trap and hold snow, soil temperatures fluctuate even less.
"Conditions can certainly deteriorate," Fanning says, but for the time being, the winter wheat crop should be surviving the winter well.