Spring Germinating Winter Wheat

If winter wheat plants only germinate in the spring, is this a cause for concern, particularly as it relates to the process of vernalization?  Referencing the article entitled “What Happens if My Winter Wheat Didn’t Emerge?", the key points related to vernalization were:

  • Neither fall seedling growth nor tillering is required for vernalization to occur. This process can begin in seeds as soon as they absorb water and swell. Hence, late planted wheat that has not emerged prior to winter should be adequately vernalized.
  • Vernalization may also occur under cool spring conditions.

No Guarantees but Experience Counts

In speaking with Brian Fowler of the University of Saskatchewan, who has 40 years of experience with winter wheat production in Canada, he indicated he has never seen a fall seeded winter wheat crop that did not head the next year. This includes situations where the seed supposedly did not germinate in the fall. Typically in spring, we see spells of cool weather (average daily temperature 10°C or lower) which is ideal for vernalization. However, no guarantees can be made in regards to spring germinated winter wheat and vernalization.  If you are considering reseeding, it is advisable to contact your local MASC insurance agent before destroying any wheat fields.

There are a few key points to keep in mind when managing a crop that only germinated in the spring.  The crop may not be as competitive so early weed control and nitrogen fertilizer application will be very important.  Maturity may also be delayed so scout for disease pressure, including rust and fusarium head blight. 

If Reseeding

If plant stands are determined to be unacceptable and the decision is made to reseed, remember that winter wheat is hard to kill.  Tillage and/or burn-down herbicides will likely not control all plants, especially if some are suffering injury and slow spring regrowth.  In-crop volunteer cereal herbicides may also be required. 

Wheat streak mosaic may also carry over from infected winter wheat fields into spring seeded cereals.  Try to avoid replanting to cereals, especially wheat.  If you do decide to replant to a spring cereal, it is recommended that there be 2 weeks with no living green material to try and mitigate the risk of infection to the reseeded crop.  Remember to factor in crop reseed choice if nitrogen fertilizer has already been applied.