Texas Wheat: Mild Winter Could Mean More Spring Wheat

    Jointing wheat.

    A mild winter may have some South Texas producers switching from winter wheat varieties to spring wheats, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service specialist.

    Dr. Clark Neely, AgriLife Extension small grains specialist in College Station, said the mild winter created some vernalization issues in the winter wheat growing region around San Antonio and south.

    “Essentially we had such a mild winter that the wheats typically grown in the San Antonio area stayed vegetative and never produced a seed head,” Neely said. “So that brings up the conversation of should we be planting a hard red spring wheat variety instead of hard red winter wheat.”

    He explained that some of the winter wheat in the AgriLife Extension variety trials, as well as producer fields, did not meet the vernalization requirement.

    Vernalization is the need for a set amount of chilling hours below 45 degrees in order for a plant variety to switch gears from vegetative growth to reproductive growth.

    Some varieties did vernalize, but were significantly delayed in maturity, while others remained largely unaffected, Neely said. This is not surprising as vernalization requirements range significantly from one variety to another.

    “Basically, if the chilling hours needed are not met, you have a pasture out there; the plant is not going to form a seed head and there will be no grain harvest,” he said.

    Neely said such was the case this year, even with varieties traditionally planted in South Texas. On the other hand, this was a very good year for producers growing spring wheat. Spring wheats do not need to vernalize and mature according to heat units only.

    “Vernalization problems are not something we run into every year, but it is not uncommon either in South Texas,” he said. “We commonly plant spring wheat variety trials at our South Texas location, which show comparable yield potential to winter wheats, without the vernalization issues.

    “We are encouraging more producers to look to see if they might be a good fit for them.”

    In South Texas, spring wheats should be planted in December, roughly three to four weeks after winter wheat in order to achieve a comparable harvest date, he said.

    Spring wheat accounts for only about 2 percent of all wheat grown in Texas and is primarily grown in the Edwards Plateau and South Central regions of the state, Neely said.

    AgriLife Extension does testing for both hard red winter and hard red spring wheat, so more data can be found by going to here.

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