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Effect of Fall Frost on Cereals

Harvest of barley and spring wheat is progressing quickly across the province. However, there are some late seeded fields that may have been impacted by last night’s frost. The good news is that cereal plants in the mid to late dough stages are more tolerant and will sustain less damage than plants in the early dough stage. At the mid-dough stage, grain yield will be affected if temperatures reach -6°C for at least an hour. Seed germination will also likely be reduced. If a cereal crop in the late dough stage, damage can occur as kernel shrinkage, bran frost and reduced germination. It’s important to note that visible signs of kernel damage won’t be evident for 7-10 days. If the affected cereal crop is going to be used for seed, it should be tested for germination and vigor. A frost event, especially below -3°C, can significantly reduce the seed’s ability to produce a viable plant. Unfortunately, there is not much we can to about the impact of a fall frost. Once the crop has been affected, wait a few days and then get out to inspect the damage, which will likely appear as water-soaked plant material that is dark in color, and shriveled kernels.

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Article written by Mallorie Lewarne, Agronomy Extension Specialist - Cereal Crops with Manitoba Crop Alliance