Freeze has slight impact on area barley, wheat crops

Freeze injury has occurred on area wheat and barley crops, according to Bobby Clark, Virginia Cooperative Extension agent for agricultural and natural resources.

“Most of the fields appear to have about 1 to 5 percent injury (i.e. 1- to 5-bushel yield loss if the potential was 100 bushels per acre), Clark stated in an email this week. “However, I found one small spot in one field where 6 out of 10 heads were 100 percent damaged.”

According to Clark, freeze injury on wheat and barley in this area is unprecedented.

“The truth is I’ve never seen this here before… We have peach trees that don’t get any peaches because of freeze injury, and grapes and apples,” stated Clark. “It’s not abnormal for that to happen. But it’s not normal for us to see this in small grain.”

Clark stated that the freeze injury occurred two or three weeks ago, but due to the nature of freeze injury, damage didn’t become visible until recently.  He noted that some farmers may choose to harvest their wheat and barley crops early as feed.

“Due to the dry weather, there may be a lot of farmers who are considering harvesting their small grain as hay/haylage instead of for grain,” he stated. “If this be the case, you might want to look at the heads to evaluate freeze injury. Farmers might choose to harvest fields with a lot of freeze injury as hay/halyage and leave non-injured fields for grain.”

Clark stated that freeze injury to small grain is a rare occurrence in most places, not just the Shenandoah Valley, but due to the scale of the damage, farmers need not be excessively concerned.

“One to 5 percent loss is not a very large loss at all,” Clark stated. “The thing is, there could be a field somewhere that may have more loss, so I’m making farmers aware.”

Contact staff writer Nathan Budryk at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or nbudryk@nvdaily.com