A Few Observations: Winter Crops

A Few Observations: Winter Crops


“Christmas can be celebrated in the school room with pine trees, tinsel and reindeers, but there must be no mention of the man whose birthday is being celebrated. One wonders how a teacher would answer if a student asked why it was called Christmas.”

― Ronald Reagan

“How many observe Christ's birthday! How few, His precepts!”

― Benjamin Franklin

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!”

― Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas

“The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live.”

― George Carlin

A few observations:


There are a few instances of “winter kill” showing up in our winter crops, both wheat and canola.  It is once again more prevalent in the no till canola than in the cleaned till.  The winter canola industry is still trying to figure out how to raise a consistently decent no till winter canola crop and we just aren’t there yet. 

The culprit in most cases is still the incidence of “high legging”.  This is when the canola plant’s growing point has to climb over residue as it emerges from the soil before it sets the plants growing point, “the bud”. 

Many times this fall I have seen dead canola with the bud ½ to 1 inch above the soil and insulated from the grounds warmth by residue.  It does not seem to matter if it is a big corn or sorghum stalk, wheat straw, or dead grab grass, if it is elevated above the ground surface, with insulation from the ground it seems to be vulnerable and many have been lost.

I have been asked many time recently about the canola leaves and there “wilting” and burning back.  This condition seems to be somewhat normal under our current conditions and should not be alarming.  The more important point is the growing point or bud at the center of all of those leaves.  If this “bud is green and plump then it is likely a viable plant and can produce yield potential.

Those fields which seem to be the hardest hit are the no tilled canola that was planted later in the planting window (Sept. 10th to Oct. 10th) either through delayed planting or in many cases this fall because of re- sowing when the existing stand seemed deficient.  In many fields these canola plants are gone and likely will not be harvested or yield has been significantly reduced.

In these instances producers should take their insurance money BUT STILL take the opportunity to clean up the field and apply the herbicides to the unwanted plants which were probably the reason that particular field was in canola anyway, (i.e. feral rye, jointed goat grass, cheat, etc.).

Soil temperatures:

At times this fall I have felt the winter crops just weren’t thriving as one might feel like they ought to be.  The sun was shining, moisture was adequate, and the air temperature was fairly moderate but the growth of the plants did not seem match those factors. They acted like they were cold and maybe they were.  According to the mesonet data the 2013 Oct. average soil temperature in our area was 2 degrees below the previous 10 year average for Oct.  The Nov. average was 4 degrees below.  So far, I would guess that the soil temperature for Dec. would be below normal by a significant margin.  So if you planted in late October or early November the plants development would be at a slower pace.  This would probably be even more so if you planted those plants in a no till situation as the residue would then act as an insulator and keeping cool soils cool, not allowing the sun’s warmth to penetrate.


The wheat in general looks pretty good.  There are, however, some instances where it may be struggling or where some yield limiting damage has taken place.  Once again it seems to be in later planted wheat where the cooler soils (see above) slowed the plants development making it unable to establish an adequate root system to withstand some of the sudden temperature extremes we are experiencing. In some instances there have been small immature no till wheat plants lose everything above the residue cover twice this year due to extreme low temperatures.  Due to the cooler soil temperatures and residue keeping them cool these small wheat plants may not have the root structure to enable them to recover too many more times.

Clearfield Wheat Systems:

The Beyond herbicide label states that in order to apply the herbicide the wheat should be “initiating” tillering. It also states do not apply the chemical when day time temperatures less than 40 degrees are expected within the week after application.  These two statements in a “butt covering” label make the timing on application very difficult.  Many Clearfield wheat fields were planted later in a fall where soil temperatures were cooler than average and tillering occurred or is occurring later than normal.  Couple this with the need to apply the herbicide twice to have adequate efficacy to control difficult unwanted plants (feral rye) and time can and does get short.  Long story short, we still need to, if possible, apply the herbicide as quickly as time allows so that we can have a decent interval of time and then apply the second application of Beyond.  If possible let’s do it twice, and there still should be time to do so.”


Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!





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