Threat of ice sheeting to winter wheat
Editor’s note: This article is from the archives of the MSU Crop Advisory Team Alerts. Check the label of any pesticide referenced to ensure your use is included.
much of the state, there has been concern over the layer of ice (ice
sheeting) that blanketed some of this year’s wheat crop, particularly
during early March. Ice sheeting can threaten wheat’s survival by
limiting oxygen and, therefore, limiting respiration. It causes the
build up of potentially toxic levels of carbon dioxide, ethylene and
methanol. Flooding also limits oxygen, so the adverse affect of flooding
and ice sheeting can be cumulative.
Despite the significant threat, the resiliency of wheat is often underestimated. This year’s crop probably can survive a few weeks under ice as most fields of wheat went into the winter in good condition. In addition, the crop had the advantage of being in a deep dormancy during early March.
Another factor that can provide relief is old crop residue that interrupts the ice sheet. Also, any fractures or porosity within the ice may allow sufficient gas exchange. For this reason, attempts to mechanically break up the ice sheets can sometimes be helpful.
As with other causes of winter injury, there is no easy way to
accurately predict the extent of crop damage. However, it is possible to
gain an indication by collecting whole plant samples from suspected
damaged areas. After being indoors for several days, healthy plants
should exhibit signs of new shoot and root growth emanating from the
By the time this newsletter is published, green-up of wheat will presumably be underway and evidence of winterkill may begin to become apparent. However, a full and reasonably accurate assessment is usually not possible until there is significant new spring growth.