The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK


May 12, 2012

White wheat heads have variety of causes

About April 25, northwest Oklahoma began to see something strange in the wheat crop.

For the most part, producers have had an extremely good growing season, with slightly above-normal rainfall and very nice temperatures for tillering and flowering of the wheat crop. That was all well and good, but Mother Nature threw producers a curve ball on April 24. That began a stretch of extremely hot temperatures, high wind speeds and little rainfall. In fact, the last rain was around April 14, and that less than 1 inch around the area.

During this time wheat was using 0.3 inches of water per day. Given those parameters, you might be able to select the reason why so many white heads are now appearing in the 2012 harvested wheat crop.

White heads in wheat at this time of the year more than likely can be caused by one of the following four reasons. They can appear as a result of root-rotting diseases, insect damage, heat at the wrong time or moisture stress.

If root rots are the cause of the white heads, you need to follow the white head down to the rooting area of the wheat stool. Gently pull the wheat stool out of the ground and begin to inspect the crown area between the roots and the upright tiller.

If the area is black or brown, more than likely root rots are the cause of the white head. The root-rot disease likely will be from common root rots like bipolaris or fusarium, rhizoctonia sharpe eye, take-all or strawbreaker.

Insect issues that might cause the wheat heads to turn white might include Hessian fly or the wheat stem maggot. If Hessian fly is the issue, the wheat heads will be an off white, but the stems will collapse in a crisscross fashion and the stem will have broken where the Hessian fly had laid their eggs. The stem maggot is limited to individual, scattered heads. These white heads easily can be pulled through the stem. Chewing damage is apparent at the base of the stem, just above the upper most nodes.

If you were not able to explain a reason why a field has white heads at this point, you can now blame Mother Nature for white heads seen in wheat. A more scientific analysis of white heads could be explained as an early senescence or maturity of the head. The cause for this can often be attributed to an excessive number of tillers (heads) produced over the mild winter, then not enough water, and the plants simply ran out of water to fill the grains in the wheat head.

While moisture is now good in these fields, the problem was during the last week of April with above 90 degree temperatures and high, hot southwest winds. These white heads often are mixed in with areas of the field that did have sufficient moisture to sustain the higher tiller count and will fill grain in the normal manners.

Your Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service ag educators are willing to assess your fields and help identify the causes of concern in your wheat fields.

More information about these white heads can be obtained by attending the Lahoma Wheat Tour on Friday. Call (580) 237-7677 for your lunch reservation.

Gribble is Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service northwest area agronomist.

Text Only
  • Trent Milacek web.jpg Despite poor harvest, wheat price falls

    I grew up and currently reside on our family farm southwest of Waukomis.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Master Gardener logocmyk.jpg Gardeners share their favorites

    Annuals only last one season, but they are important because of the great variety of flowers that keep the garden colorful throughout the summer.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Conservation workshop set

    The workshop will be 6 p.m. at the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service Center, 316 E. Oxford.

    July 26, 2014

  • Jeff Bedwell Consider safety of forage beforehand

    Drought conditions of the past three to four years and in particular the past eight months had hay/forage inventories at critically low levels. The most recent period ranked as the third-driest period in recorded history. Not unlike the farmers and ranchers of other times of drought, ag producers now have been very resourceful to not only replace hay supplies that have dwindled but also add much-needed revenue to farm income.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Right to Farm web 1.jpg Ag industry seeks right to farm

    The emerging battle could have lasting repercussions for the nation’s food supply and for the millions of people worldwide who depend on U.S. agricultural exports. It’s also possible the right-to-farm idea could sputter as a merely symbolic gesture that carries little practical effect beyond driving up voter turnout in local elections.

    July 19, 2014 2 Photos

  • farm - Burlington FFA web.jpg Burlington students attend camp

    More than 1,600 FFA members from 289 Oklahoma FFA chapters attended one of four three and one-half day sessions from June 29-July 12.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • farm - Oklahoma's Dirty Dozen poster 150dpi_W.jpg Poster targets invasive plants

    They all have more than four letters, but they are certainly bad words in the state of Oklahoma.

    July 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • farm - Rick Nelson web.jpg Simple steps can prevent fungus infection

    July 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • Help plants survive the summer heat

    The July hot weather has arrived, and Oklahoma State University has some suggestions for helping with our gardening needs this month.

    July 12, 2014

  • farm - 4-H_W_W.jpg State 4-H honors volunteers

    A group of dedicated parents and volunteers with Oklahoma 4-H Youth Development Program gathered recently in Stillwater for learning, sharing of ideas and recognition of dedication to Oklahoma’s youth.

    July 12, 2014 1 Photo

Featured Ads