What’s in the Field UC? – Purple Wheat

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Have you seen purple wheat in your fields this year? Join Mikayla Graham Field Crops Agent in a wheat field in Southern Union County to learn about what could be causing these colors and some ways to asses the health of your crop at this point in the season in this short video:

Today I’m in a wheat field in the southern part of Union County. I wanted to talk to you about some issues that you may be seeing in your fields and that are being seen across North Carolina. The first thing I would like to discuss is the weather. As you know, this year we’ve had a lot of rainfall events, and these events have been back to back. The soil hasn’t had the chance to dry down and you’ve probably barely been able to get into your fields because of the wet conditions in the field. The wheat is basically drowning: there’s too much water in the soil for the wheat to be able to pull up nutrients and so there’s some nutrient deficiency symptoms showing up.
Standing water in wheat field

Standing water in wheat field

As you may know, phosphorus deficiency is typically shown by purple coloration of the tips. Just because your wheat may be currently showing these deficiency symptoms does not mean that you do not have phosphorus in the soil. If you know that you have been applying poultry litter year after year, if you have a soil test from earlier in the winter that shows that you have phosphorus in the soil, then you don’t need to apply any more. It’s just so wet, that the wheat is not able to pick it up and so you’re seeing these symptoms. Once it dries out and the wheat is able to start picking up that phosphorus and those other nutrients, then it should be able to bounce back.
The second thing I’d like to talk to you about is the possibility of barley yellow dwarf virus. This virus, as you know, can sometimes show up with these symptoms: with yellowing maybe some purpling and maybe even a little bit of red. But, this virus comes along whenever you have aphids in your field. So, if you’re worried that that might be your issue, I suggest for you to go out into your field, check the undersides of the leaves of your wheat, and look for any living aphids, any aphid shells that could have been left behind, and any aphid damage. If you do see aphid evidence then you probably want to take a sample and send it in to the Plant Disease and Insect Clinic and let them check and see if there’s any evidence of the disease. If not, then you probably don’t have barley yellow dwarf virus and the discoloration that you’re seeing is caused by all the wet weather that we’ve been having.
Dug up wheat plants

Dug up wheat plants

Another good thing for you to do while you’re out in your field and you’re looking at your wheat is to dig up a few plants. You can do a lot of things while you have these plants dug up. First, you want to look at the roots. If the roots are rotting and black or a dark color and come apart easily in your hands, then they’re unhealthy and there’s not a whole lot that you can do to remedy that. However, if your roots are white and healthy looking, whenever the sun comes out and the soil dries down, the wheat will be able to bounce back, pull nutrients up into the leaves, and begin producing heads.
While you are checking on the roots of those plants, you may also want to take a look at your growing point. Right now, your growing point will most likely be underground, and you want it to be nice and white looking. That is a very healthy growing point that will eventually turn into a seed head and give you your yield later in the year.