Wheat – Why Is It Purple?

— Written By and last updated by

As you drive down the road, you may notice that the large fields planted in wheat are not green this year, but purple! While this may be pretty to look at – honestly its very photogenic – it is not the best thing for farmers.

Plants, like people, need air to breath. And I don’t just mean air above ground: the roots below ground need air as well. In order for the plant to grow and take up nutrients in the soil, it needs small pockets of air in the soil. These are called pores. Imagine the soil is like a sponge. Over the past few months, we have had a lot of rain, and very few sunny days. This means the soil is like a sponge that is as full of water as you can get. 

Purple Wheat in Field

It’s heavy, dense, and has little air supply. Now imagine you squeeze the excess water out of the sponge, allowing air into the pores. Now it’s a little lighter in your hand, but still pretty damp. When we have had a few dry, sunny or windy days, that is what happens to the soil. Those pores open up, and the plant can breathe.

So, what does this have to do with purple wheat? Well, when plants can’t breathe at their roots, there are symptoms above ground. Drowned roots cause a purple color to show up at the tips of the plant. The good thing is that wheat can bounce back from this. As long as there are some pretty days of nice, sunny weather, the wheat roots will begin to grow again, and that purple color will start to disappear. So next time you notice a wheat field that is purple, you know what it is caused by!