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It is time to check for first hollow stem in wheat

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David Marburger

David Marburger

Since April 2016, I have served as the Small Grains Extension Specialist at Oklahoma State University. My research and extension efforts focus on delivering science-based recommendations in order to increase small grains production and profitability for stakeholders throughout Oklahoma and the southern Great Plains.

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First hollow stem (FHS) is the optimal time to remove cattle from wheat pasture. This occurs when there is 1.5 cm (5/8” or the diameter of dime) of hollow stem below the developing grain head (Fig.1). To give you a point of reference, the average FHS date over the past 20 years at Stillwater is March 6.

Figure 1. First hollow stem occurs when hollow stem equivalent to the diameter of a dime (1.5 cm) is present below the developing grain head.

Several factors influence the onset of FHS. These include the wheat variety, location, temperature, available moisture, level of grazing, and planting date (later sown wheat will typically reach FHS later). Varieties can differ by as much as three weeks in onset of first hollow stem, and later maturity varieties generally reach first hollow stem later. Dual-purpose producers are encouraged to select varieties that are characterized as medium, late or very late in occurrence of FHS.

The latest FHS results for each variety planted in our forage trial at Chickasha are listed below (Table 1). None of the varieties are at FHS (all values are below 1.5 cm), but values are likely to change with current soil moisture conditions and warmer temperature predicted for the next couple days.

The First Hollow Stem Advisor and the updates we provide give an indication of the FHS stem conditions in a particular area. However, because of the number of factors that can influence when FHS occurs, it is extremely important to check for FHS on a field-by-field basis.

Table 1. First hollow stem results for each variety collected at Chickasha on 01/30/20. Plots were planted on 09/19/19. The threshold target for FHS is 1.5 cm. The value of hollow stem for each variety represents the average of ten measurements.


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