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Freeze injury update 21 March 2016

Temperatures over the weekend were cold enough to cause injury to the Oklahoma wheat crop. As shown in the figure below from the Oklahoma Mesonet many areas of Oklahoma spent several hours below 28F. While temperatures in the wheat canopy might have remained slightly higher than reported air temperatures, they were still probably low enough to result in significant injury to wheat.

 

Hours spent below 28F March 18 - 20

Hours spent below 28F March 18 – 20

 

A few points I would encourage everyone to consider:

Every freeze event is unique – the temperatures and time durations we use regarding freeze injury are rules of thumb and are not exact. I have seen instances where conventional wisdom would indicate complete crop loss and we skate through with minimal damage.
It will take a few days to see how bad things are – Symptoms may start to appear later this week and will likely be clearly identifiable by the end of this week. Healthy wheat heads will remain turgid with a green color. Damaged wheat heads will be bleached, yellow, or brown and will easily break when pushed against. I anticipate that we will not have any partial “blanking” of wheat heads and that most wheat heads will either be okay or a complete loss. This post from last year has some pictures showing tell tale signs of freeze injury. The linked post also serves as a reminder that while freeze is the concern of the day, the potential worsening of drought conditions in NW Oklahoma has the potential to do far more damage.

% damaged heads might not = % yield loss –  It is still relatively early in the growing season and there is still opportunity for smaller (two nodes or less) wheat to produce additional tillers and/or retain secondary tillers. Whether or not these tillers are able to compensate for larger tillers that were lost due to freeze will depend on moisture and weather. IF (and that is a big if) weather conditions remain favorable, late emerging tillers in central and northern Oklahoma might still have a shot at producing grain. It will be tougher for more advanced wheat in southern Oklahoma to make this type of recovery.

 

Northwestern / north central Oklahoma wheat update – drought, greenbugs, and freeze

Dr. Hunger traveled southwest Oklahoma this week, so I made a trip out Hwy. 60 yesterday to evaluate freeze injury and assess the overall condition of the wheat crop in northwestern and north central Oklahoma. Last week’s warm temperatures and wind have taken their toll on wheat in Kay, Grant, and eastern Garfield Counties. It is not too late for rain to save a partial wheat crop in these areas, but the “full yield potential” ship sailed long ago. Wheat sown behind summer crops is the hardest hit, and wheat in these fields could best be described as yellow and thin. If the weather turned and we received rain in the next week, I would predict that yield potential in these fields would still only be around the 15 bushel mark. Without rain, subtract around 15 bushels. Wheat planted behind summer fallow has held on a little longer, but is clearly showing the signs of extreme drought stress. If we receive rain in the next week (and continue to see rain) these fields could still make 20 – 30 bushels per acre. In the absence of rain in the near future, they will be 10 bushels per acre or less.

Wheat in the Lamont test plot was approximately GS 7 - 8. Flag leaves were rolled and plants were starting to abort tillers.

Wheat in the Lamont test plot was approximately GS 7 – 8. Flag leaves were rolled and plants were starting to abort tillers.

 

In addition to drought stress, we found freeze injury and greenbugs at Lamont. I was a little surprised to find freeze injury and even more surprised to find the greatest injury in the later-maturing varieties. We split several stems of early varieties such as Ruby Lee and Gallagher and did not find any injury. These varieties would have likely been at approximately GS 7 – 8 when the freeze occurred. We found significant injury in later-maturing varieties such as Endurance, but these varieties were likely only GS 6 – 7 when the freeze occurred. Conventional wisdom regarding freeze injury is that the more advanced the variety, the greater the likelihood of freeze injury. After seeing the same phenomenon last year (i.e. the greatest injury in later maturing varieties) I am changing my thinking on freeze injury and now say that all bets are off when it comes to freeze injury in drought stressed wheat.

Freeze injury was greatest in late-maturing varieties at Lamont.

Freeze injury was greatest in late-maturing varieties at Lamont.

 

Overall wheat condition started to improve around Nash and Jet, I would say that much of the wheat in this area is CURRENTLY in fair to good condition. I emphasize the currently in the previous sentence, as the only difference between wheat in the Cherokee area and wheat to the east was about one week’s worth of moisture. Some terrace ridges had already started turning blue and moisture was starting to run out. Without rain wheat in this area will rapidly deteriorate from good to poor. One consistent theme throughout the day was greenbugs. Many sites had evidence of parasitic wasp activity (i.e. aphid mummies), but the presence or absence of parasitic wasp activity varied field by field. Dr. Royer has indicated that greenbugs still need to be controlled in drought stressed wheat. If parasitic wasps are active, the best decision is to let them do the aphid killing for you. If no mummies are present, then insecticide control could be justified. The only sure way to make this determination is to use the glance-n-go sampling system.

 

Greenbugs were alive and well at Lamont

Greenbugs were alive and well at Lamont

Parasitic wasps were keeping greenbug populations under control in this field

Parasitic wasps were keeping greenbug populations under control in this field

Active and parasitized greenbugs on the same plant

Active and parasitized greenbugs on the same plant

 

Similar to Lamont, we found freeze injury in the Cherokee and Helena areas. Many of the worst looking fields (extensive leaf burn) had only superficial injury and should recover if moisture allows. Conversely, some plants that showed no outward signs of freeze injury had injured heads within.  Most fields I surveyed had less than 10% injury, but one field was a complete loss. On the surface the 10% injury field and 100% loss field looked the same, so I cannot over stress the importance of splitting stems. I have received a few additional reports of freeze injury from Kay County this morning, so it is important for producers throughout northern Oklahoma to evaluate their wheat on a field by field basis.

 

Plants that look healthy on the exterior could contain damaged wheat heads

Plants that look healthy on the exterior could contain damaged wheat heads

A closeup of the damaged wheat head from the picture above

A closeup of the damaged wheat head from the picture above

Although freeze injury to plant tissue in this field was severe, the wheat heads were mostly left unscathed

Although freeze injury to plant tissue in this field was severe, the wheat heads were mostly left unscathed

A closeup of a head from the freeze-injured wheat shown above. Although tissue damage is severe, the growing point and wheat head are still viable

A closeup of a head from the freeze-injured wheat shown above. Although tissue damage is severe, the growing point and wheat head are still viable

A final note on freeze injury. Freeze injury appeared to be worst in no-till fields and in areas where residue was heaviest. Based on my observations, this was not due to winterkill or poor seed to soil contact. My best explanation is that the lack of soil cover in conventional till fields allowed stored heat to radiate from the soil surface and slightly warm the crop canopy. The insulating effect of residue in no-till fields did not allow radiant heating to occur. Given the pattern of freeze injury in fields with varying degrees of residue across the field, I feel pretty confident in this analysis of what occurred.

Please use the comment section to share pictures or descriptions of wheat in your area.

Wheat crop update 05/01/2014

I have been out in much of the state with wheat field days this week and wanted to share a few observations. Drought conditions are worsening in most wheat producing areas of the state and yield potential is declining fairly rapidly. An area roughly extending from Chickasha to Enid along highway 81 still has some potential, provided that that we receive rain soon. The same can be said for a few small pockets of wheat that received rain earlier this spring in Alfalfa, Grant, and Kay counties. With temperatures predicted to climb to the upper 90’s next week, however, the potential in these areas could decline rapidly. Most other areas of western Oklahoma have very limited or no yield potential remaining.

The effects of the April 15th freeze are still showing up in the Oklahoma wheat crop. We have several fields with lots of tillers but few heads. Most wheat south of Hwy 51 in Oklahoma is as fully headed as it is going to get. That is, the heads that were not killed by the freeze are fully emerged. Tillers that still look yellow or even green but are not headed out most likely have dead wheat heads inside. These can easily be identified by splitting the stem and examining the wheat head as shown in the pictures below.

 

Freeze injured wheat can still have green flag leaves but dead wheat heads. This tiller will eventually turn brown.

Freeze injured wheat can still have green flag leaves but dead wheat heads. This tiller will eventually turn brown.

Freeze injured wheat heads will be brown. As indicated in the post above, wheat tillers that are not headed out south of Hwy 51 in Oklahoma likely has this type of freeze injury.

Freeze injured wheat heads will be brown. As indicated in the post above, wheat tillers that are not headed out south of Hwy 51 in Oklahoma likely has this type of freeze injury.

 

Freeze injury update 22 April 2014

Injury symptoms from the April 14th freeze are now showing in the Oklahoma wheat crop. Robert Calhoun and Matt Knori madeTh a trip through north central Oklahoma yesterday splitting stems (some pictures are posted below). Their first stop was our wheat variety trials at Marshall Oklahoma where they found 20% injury in our grazed wheat plots and 51% injury in our non-grazed wheat plots. While planting date and management system clearly affected the level of injury, variety did not seem to have much effect.

Next stop was a grazed field north of Hennessy where they found little injury. The same was true for a field in the Waukomis area and the Lahoma variety trial where they found less than 5% injury. Not too far to the north, however, our Lamont variety trial sustained over 80% injury. I received similar reports of severe wheat freeze injury from Curtis Vap in the Blackwell area.

Late last week our team traveled to Apache to apply fungicides to the wheat variety trial, but never unloaded the sprayer. Freeze injury was severe and clearly visible without splitting stems. Our wheat at the Chickasha research station had little to no damage, and most wheat in the area seemed to dodge the freeze bullet. I will make a bigger loop into southwest Oklahoma later this week and report findings.

Injury symptoms should now be easily identifiable and growers can assess damage to individual fields. I recommend splitting 10 stems at four or five locations throughout the field and determining % injury from these numbers. If injury is extremely variable, increase sample size. While it is fairly easy to determine the extent of injury on individual fields, the hit or miss nature of freeze injury this year makes it difficult to estimate the total impact on the Oklahoma wheat crop as a whole.

The drought has severely limited resilience in our crop and we are entering late April, so I do not anticipate there will be much of a recovery or rebound in fields that were severely damaged. It is important to note that 50% injury does not necessarily mean 50% yield loss. In most cases the actual yield loss will be less than the % injury. So, it is reasonable to expect that 50% injury might only result in a 35 or 40% yield loss. Of course, this depends on several factors such as soil moisture and temperature.

Finally, a word on foliar disease and fungicide application. I would make decisions regarding fungicide application based on variety, current disease reports, and the yield potential of the crop as it stands right now. Our long-term data shows that fungicides protect yield potential to the tune of about 10%. Of course individual variety responses can deviate from this number but 10% is a good rule of thumb. I do not, however, recommend applying a fungicide to “assist the crop in recovery from freeze”. Again, make these decisions based on the remaining yield potential rather than an effort to attempt to nurse the crop back to health after freeze.

 

Freeze injured wheat from Marshall, OK

Freeze injured wheat from Marshall, OK

As evidenced by this picture from Marshall, Oklahoma, freeze injured wheat can still have a green appearance. You must split stems to accurately assess injury.

As evidenced by this picture from Marshall, Oklahoma, freeze injured wheat can still have a green appearance. You must split stems to accurately assess injury.

Freeze injured wheat at Lamont, Oklahoma. Freeze might have finished this plot, but drought had it down for the count prior to the freeze.

Freeze injured wheat at Lamont, Oklahoma. Freeze might have finished this plot, but drought had it with a standing eight count prior to the freeze.

Freeze injury in Kay County Oklahoma. Photo courtesy Curtis Vap.

Freeze injury in Kay County Oklahoma. Photo courtesy Curtis Vap.

 

 

Freeze injury update 15 April 2014

I have posted a few images from the Oklahoma Mesonet below. Most of Oklahoma spent at least four hours below freezing last night and some areas spent an extended period of time below 28F. While temperatures in the wheat canopy might have remained slightly higher than reported air temperatures, they were still probably low enough to result in significant injury to wheat.

Over the next few days growers will need to inspect fields closely to determine the extent of injury. Symptoms may start to appear later this week and will likely be clearly identifiable by early next week. Healthy wheat heads will remain turgid with a green color. Damaged wheat heads will be bleached, yellow, or brown and will easily break when pushed against. I anticipate that we will not have any partial “blanking” of wheat heads and that most wheat heads will either be okay or a complete loss.

What about new tillers? New tillers might emerge, but it is already April 15. In addition we have very dry soil conditions. For these reasons I am doubtful that newly emerging tillers will have much yield potential in areas south of I-40. IF (and that is a big if) weather conditions remain favorable, late emerging tillers in northern Oklahoma might still have a shot at producing grain.

I will survey some fields in a few days and report back with my findings. If you are interested in receiving weather maps and updates such as the ones posted below, subscribe to the OCS Mesonet Ticker by emailing ticker@mesonet.org

Hours below freezing on April 15, 2014

Hours below freezing on April 15, 2014

Hours below 28 F on April 15, 2014

Hours below 28 F on April 15, 2014

Hours below 24F on April 15, 2014

Hours below 24F on April 15, 2014

 

Potential for freeze injury

Temperatures are predicted to drop well below freezing tonight (14 April 2014), and there is high potential for freeze injury to Oklahoma wheat. I have posted an excerpt from K-State Extension Publication C-646 Spring Freeze Injury to Kansas Wheat along with a map which provides some rule of thumb temperature thresholds for the current Oklahoma wheat crop. Keep in mind these temperature thresholds are not exact, and temperatures closer to the soil surface might be higher than those reported by weather stations one meter above the soil surface, especially if moisture is present. Wheat in Oklahoma ranges from just past jointing to late boot and if forecasts are correct we will drop below the threshold temperatures where injury might be observed. The extent of injury will depend on how cold we get and how long we stay there. We can lose a few main tillers at this stage and still recover. Given our limited moisture and limited time prior to harvest, though, it is not likely that we will recover from a complete loss of tillers as we have after some March freezes in the past.

Excerpt from KSTATE publication C-646 Spring Freeze Injury to Kansas Wheat

Excerpt from KSTATE publication C-646 Spring Freeze Injury to Kansas Wheat

 

Approximate temperature thresholds for freeze injury to Oklahoma wheat on 04/14/2014

Approximate temperature thresholds for freeze injury to Oklahoma wheat on 04/14/2014

Freeze injury is not clearly identifiable until 7 – 10 days after the freeze event. So, the best advice for a wheat farmer after a freeze event is to find something else to do for a week or two and then check your crop. I have provided some pictures below with typical injury symptoms and rules of thumb regarding the extent of the injury. Fields should be checked at several random locations by splitting 10 – 20 stems at each location and looking for injury. Don’t focus solely on the large stems. Split a random sampling and determine the percent damage. A good reference for evaluating freeze injury to wheat is K-State Extension Publication C-646 Spring Freeze Injury to Kansas Wheat (access online by clicking here).

This is a healthy wheat head at approximately growth stage 6 - 7. Note the light green color and healthy, turgid appearance.

This is a healthy wheat head at approximately growth stage 6 – 7. Note the light green color and healthy, turgid appearance.

Freeze injury just after jointing. Note the pale, milky color of the head.

Freeze injury just after jointing. Note the pale, milky color of the head. Freeze injury to wheat heads at this growth stage is all or none, so this head is a complete loss.

Leaf tip burn from freeze injury will have no impact on final grain yield

Leaf tip burn from freeze injury will have no impact on final grain yield

Yellowing is a common reaction to light freeze injury. Wheat will recover quickly from this injury.

Yellowing is a common reaction to light freeze injury. Wheat will recover quickly from this injury.

Severe freeze injury at or just after jointing can turn the entire plant brown and fields can exude an odor similar to fermenting silage. If conditions are favorable, the plant can produce new tillers (as shown here) and make a partial recovery. It will take a few weeks after a freeze event to determine if the plant will recover from this type of injury

Severe freeze injury at or just after jointing can turn the entire plant brown and fields can exude an odor similar to fermenting silage. If conditions are favorable, the plant can produce new tillers (as shown here) and make a partial recovery. It will take a few weeks after a freeze event to determine if the plant will recover from this type of injury

It is common for sub-lethal freeze injury to result in bent or weak lower nodes. These plants might look fine, but will lodge during grain fill.

It is common for sub-lethal freeze injury to result in bent or weak lower nodes. These plants might look fine, but will lodge during grain fill.

Freeze injury

Freeze injured plants from Cotton County, OK. Note the green, healthy leaf coming through the desiccated leaves in the plant on the right

Freeze injured plants from Cotton County, OK. Note the green, healthy leaf coming through the desiccated leaves in the plant on the right. These plants will make a full recovery with adequate moist and fertility.

Our recent extreme shifts in temperature have resulted in moderate to severe freeze injury in some Oklahoma wheat fields. To be honest, the damage is not as widespread or severe as I thought it would be given that most of our wheat had not had an opportunity to harden off. The dry soil conditions in western and southern Oklahoma did not help the situation, as there was not sufficient soil moisture to buffer the temperature shift in the top few inches of soil.

Freeze injury at this stage of growth (tillering) rarely impacts grain yield, but, as always, there are a few exceptions. Wheat that was very small or late-sown is more susceptible to winter kill. Similarly, wheat that does not have a good root system or that was shallow sown due to crop residue is more susceptible to winter kill. It is best to wait until after a few days of favorable growing conditions to check for freeze injury. Plants with regrowth that is green and healthy should make a full recovery, and this will be the case for most Oklahoma wheat fields.

Freeze injury in late-sown wheat near Enid, OK. Some of the smaller plants might have a tough time recovering, but given favorable conditions, the wheat stand as a whole still has adequate time to "fill in" and compensate for some of the lost plants.

Freeze injury in late-sown wheat near Enid, OK. Some of the smaller plants might have a tough time recovering, but it is still too early to determine whether or not the field as a whole will adequate to produce a decent grain crop.

Spring freeze part deux

Large amounts of freezing rain, sleet, hail, etc. hit the Oklahoma wheat belt on April 10, 2013 and temperatures are expected to drop to the mid to upper 20’s this evening (I posted a couple of pictures below). Wheat development ranges from early heading in southern Oklahoma to just past jointing in northern Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Panhandle. If forecasts are correct, wheat tillers in southwest Oklahoma that escaped the first freeze have a good chance of being taken out by this freeze.  Central and northcentral Oklahoma has quite a bit of ice-covered wheat. Ice-covered wheat will remain at approximately 32F and this might be just warm enough to escape severe injury. If the ice melts, however, and temps drop into the 20’s even wheat that is just past the jointing stage can be injured. At this stage it is certain that we will have some freeze injury to the majority of the Oklahoma wheat crop, but it will be a good 7 – 10 days before we can accurately assess the level of injury.

I have been asked if there is a 1:1 relationship between % freeze injury and % grain yield loss. Generally, the answer is no. DISCLAIMER — the values I am about to discuss are approximations and have huge margins of error —  An otherwise healthy wheat crop that sustains 10% freeze injury prior to boot would probably suffer yield losses in the order of 0 to 5%. This is because the plant will divert resources to the remaining wheat heads. If damage is sufficient to reduce the final head count below a critical mass (around 400 heads per square yard) the relationship between % freeze injury and % yield loss will be much closer. So a 60% freeze injury might result in a 40 – 50% loss in grain yield. Again, these numbers are rough estimations and environmental conditions following the freeze will greatly impact the plant’s ability to compensate after freeze.

Advanced wheat partially covered by ice at Okarche, OK. Photo courtesy Mike Schulte, Oklahoma Wheat Commission

Advanced wheat partially covered by ice at Okarche, OK. Photo courtesy Mike Schulte, Oklahoma Wheat Commission

Mixture of ice and rain on wheat at Banner Rd. and I 40. Photo courtesy Mike Schulte, Oklahoma Wheat Commission

Mixture of ice and rain on wheat at Banner Rd. and I 40. Photo courtesy Mike Schulte, Oklahoma Wheat Commission

Ice covered wheat in the Alva area. Photo courtesy Woods County Extension Educator, Greg Highfill

Ice covered wheat in the Alva area. Photo courtesy Woods County Extension Educator, Greg Highfill

Freeze injury update – worse than we thought

On April 4th I toured southwest Oklahoma and surveyed freeze injury to wheat. In my experience, most freeze events are overhyped; however, this one was the real deal Holyfield.  I traveled a route from Faxon to Chattanooga to Altus to Blair and ended up at Apache. Damage was similar at all sites, with injury ranging from 50 to 80%.

The best looking wheat was the hardest hit. Particularly troubling are some fields in the Altus area that easily had 80 bushel potential prior to the freeze. In most of these fields we are too far past the tillering stage to have yield compensation from secondary tillers. Late-emerging fields that were jointing or smaller escaped the freeze with little injury. Fields that had been heavily grazed and/or under-fertilized also escaped with relatively minor injury.  Conditions improved slightly when I checked wheat in the Chickasha area and injury was more in the 10 – 30% range.

I am frequently asked if the injured wheat head will go ahead and “push through” as the season progresses, and the answer is no. So, if you see heads emerging out of the boot in a few weeks, they are likely not damaged and a head count at this stage will be a reasonable estimate of fertile heads. Since there will not be additional stem elongation in freeze injured wheat, it will not accumulate as much tonnage as in a ‘normal’ year.

I have posted a few pictures below showing freeze injury symptoms. Freeze injury can vary greatly among fields and even within a field. So, it is important to check several sites within a field and split several stems when determining the percent injury. Check early maturing varieties such as Jackpot, Billings, and Everest first, as they are most likely to have injury.

Image

Endurance wheat collected from plots at Chattanooga, OK. The two top heads are freeze damaged and will not recover. Note the shriveled, white appearance of the wheat head. The bottom head was not injured and is healthy green.

A healthy head of Endurance  from Apache, OK.

A healthy head of Endurance from Apache, OK.

Even though this wheat was just past jointing, it was injured by the freeze and the head was lost.

Even though this wheat was just past jointing, it was injured by the freeze and the head was lost.

Freeze injured Billings from the Altus research station

Freeze injured Billings from the Altus research station

A sign of the drought. Wheat seed still easy to find on a sample from near Altus, OK April 4.

A sign of the drought. Wheat seed still easy to find on a sample from near Altus, OK April 4.

Freeze injury to wheat

Temperatures across Oklahoma dipped into the teens and 20’s March 25 and 26 (see maps below). The rule of thumb is temperatures below 24F will damage wheat at or past the jointing stage, so it was certainly cold enough to injure wheat that was not delayed due to drought stress, grazing, or late emergence.  ImageImage

Freeze injury is not an exact science, and it remains to be seen whether or not we actually have widespread wheat freeze injury in the 2013 wheat crop.  My best guess is that we will have some injury and might lose our primary tillers in more advanced fields. Wheat that is at Feekes growth stage 6 – 7 generally has the ability to compensate for primary tiller loss by keeping secondary tillers that would otherwise be sloughed off in April. In this scenario, the effect on final grain yield would be minimal. Wheat that has already aborted secondary tillers does not have this flex ability and will not recover from freeze injury.  This is why March freezes are generally yield reducing and April freezes are yield eliminating. I will check fields late next week and post the results on this blog.

Freeze injury is not clearly identifiable until 7 – 10 days after the freeze event. So, the best advice for a wheat farmer after a freeze event is to find something else to do for a week or two and then check your crop. I have provided some pictures below with typical injury symptoms and rules of thumb regarding the extent of the injury. Fields should be checked at several random locations by splitting 10 – 20 stems at each location and looking for injury. Don’t focus solely on the large stems. Split a random sampling and determine the percent damage. A good reference for evaluating freeze injury to wheat is K-State Extension Publication C-646 Spring Freeze Injury to Kansas Wheat (access online by clicking here).

This is a healthy wheat head at approximately growth stage 6 - 7. Note the light green color and healthy, turgid appearance.

This is a healthy wheat head at approximately growth stage 6 – 7. Note the light green color and healthy, turgid appearance.

Freeze injury just after jointing. Note the pale, milky color of the head.

Freeze injury just after jointing. Note the pale, milky color of the head. Freeze injury to wheat heads at this growth stage is all or none, so this head is a complete loss.

Leaf tip burn from freeze injury will have no impact on final grain yield

Leaf tip burn from freeze injury will have no impact on final grain yield

Yellowing is a common reaction to light freeze injury. Wheat will recover quickly from this injury.

Yellowing is a common reaction to light freeze injury. Wheat will recover quickly from this injury.

Severe freeze injury at or just after jointing can turn the entire plant brown and fields can exude an odor similar to fermenting silage. If conditions are favorable, the plant can produce new tillers (as shown here) and make a partial recovery. It will take a few weeks after a freeze event to determine if the plant will recover from this type of injury

Severe freeze injury at or just after jointing can turn the entire plant brown and fields can exude an odor similar to fermenting silage. If conditions are favorable, the plant can produce new tillers (as shown here) and make a partial recovery. It will take a few weeks after a freeze event to determine if the plant will recover from this type of injury

It is common for sub-lethal freeze injury to result in bent or weak lower nodes. These plants might look fine, but will lodge during grain fill.

It is common for sub-lethal freeze injury to result in bent or weak lower nodes. These plants might look fine, but will lodge during grain fill.