An area of arctic high pressure was expected to plunge Arkansas’ mercury into the teens and 20s by Sunday morning (Feb. 12), a hard freeze that could be harmful to the lush winter wheat crop.
“With the mild winter so far, many wheat fields in south Arkansas have more growth than normal,” said Jason Kelley, Extension wheat and feed grains specialist for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. “In particular, fields that were planted early following corn and planted with early maturing varieties seem to be the most developed.
“These are the fields that, unfortunately, have already started to joint where the wheat’s head has begun to develop and is above the soil surface making it more vulnerable to freeze damage.
“The fields with concern about freeze damage are those that are jointing. Temperatures down to 24 degrees Fahrenheit are cold enough to cause damage.”
Fields that haven’t reached the jointing stage, but have greened up and started active growth in the last week or so will likely suffer leaf burn. However, Kelley said those plants tolerate considerably colder temperatures without significant injury.
After the freeze, any damage will take a few days or even weeks to show.
Arkansas farmers planted 520,000 acres of winter wheat this year that will be harvested in June.