Wheat School: What causes red and yellow wheat?

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If you’ve been scouting your wheat fields and seeing some strange colours in Ontario, you’re probably not alone, and there may be a pretty simple explanation for it.

We’re back in the field for another update with Joanna Follings, cereal specialist with the Ontario Ministery of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and RealAg’s Peter “Wheat Pete” Johnson. In this episode of the Wheat School, Pete’s wondering what is going on with red and yellow wheat!

“What we’re seeing happening this year is that we’ve had such a beautiful fall,” says Follings. Although the daytime temperatures are high, the nighttime temps are still dipping down to minus two or even minus five. “So what’s happening is the top vegetative growth, it’s really wanting to grow, it’s photosynthesizing, but those poor roots in that cold soil are just having a tough time growing and penetrating through that soil.”

The leaves are making energy, but the roots can’t keep up, says Johnson, and it’s either cold below ground, or wet, he adds. “You get that photosynthate built up in the above-ground part of the plant, and it’s toxic if it doesn’t have a sink,” says Johnson. Which is why Follings and Johnson have observed such strange colours in this particular wheat field — yellow, red, or even purple.

Follings explains that this discolouration is seen where there’s been heavy compaction, where there hasn’t been a starter fertilizer, and where there’s internal drainage issues. Wheat is such a great indicator crop — it can tell you when there may be problems in your field.

Catch the full conversation below:

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