Prolonged cold temperatures have delayed wheat development this year. However, a growth spurt can be expected to follow the unusually high temperatures recently experienced in most of the state.

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services reminds growers that properly timed nitrogen applications are essential to crop development.

“It is getting late for a split nitrogen application, but some fields in central or western counties could still benefit, especially those where plants are just spiking and have only a main stem and one tiller,” said Ben Knox, NCDA&CS regional agronomist.

For growers to determine how much additional nitrogen is needed to finish out the crop, they will have to depend on tissue test results. Knox predicts that growers in the Piedmont will be collecting tissue samples within two to three weeks. In the eastern counties, however, regional agronomist Dianne Farrer is advising her growers to be ready to collect samples very soon.

“Tissue sampling should begin when wheat reaches Zadoks growth stage 30 (GS-30),” Farrer said. “Rate of growth depends on variety, planting date, environmental conditions and location, with wheat in eastern counties reaching GS-30 soonest. When wheat begins to stand up tall and straight, pull several plants, split the stems from the top to the base and look for the growing point. Before GS-30, it will be just above the roots; at GS-30, it will have moved about one-half inch up the stem.”

“Once GS-30 is reached, growers should immediately collect tissue samples and matching above-ground biomass samples,” Knox said. “This procedure will be new to many growers. Advisors began promoting it last year after research in North Carolina showed it could provide better nitrogen recommendations under most conditions.”