30 May 1997

Wheats unscathed by late April frosts

FROST damage in cereals caused by severe end-of-April frosts is showing as ears emerge. But wheats may compensate, leaving yields largely unaffected.

Crops in the south are worst affected following temperatures as low as -7C. Barley, which was more forward, has suffered more, notes ADASs John Garstang. "The ear has withstood the frost, but we are seeing typical symptoms of blind spikelets."

Early developing wheats like Soissons, and other varieties sown in early September, have also been affected from the Wash to the Solent and up into the south midlands. Advanced tillers and shoots in frost pockets were hardest hit.

Hants agronomist Seumas Foster reckons Angora barley is showing the worst symptoms. Affected ears have white awns, and grain sites are dead.

Some wheat, Soissons mainly, shows white constrictions on the leaf. "When you cut plants open, the ear has gone in many cases. The last time we saw this losses were about 5%, twice that where a lot of damage occurred."

Doug Stevens at Morley Research Centre in Norfolk is more optimistic. While 10-15% of wheat crops may have been affected in East Anglia, he believes few growers will notice thanks to timely compensatory growth.

"Original primary tillers have been killed, but it seems there will be a degree of compensatory takeover by secondary tillers. The rain came in the nick of time – a lot of people who had 20-30% ear damage probably wont notice it at harvest." &#42