By removing a few of your winter wheat plants on a warm day, you can easily assess your winter survival. Keep the crowns on a moist paper towel exposed to light in a warm room for a few hours, maybe a day. If the crown tissue is damaged it will turn brown. If the tissue is not damaged it will stay white and begin to produce roots in a few days. Assessment should be made of the “worst-case” areas, where fertility may have been poor, snow cover was lost in cold temperatures, and/or plants did not develop the crown before winter. If the plants have survived in the worst-case areas the rest of the plants in the crop that did obtain these things should be fine.
Winter survival cannot be determined by leaf colour in the field. A brown leaf may not mean the plant is dead and a green leaf may not mean the plant is alive. Winter wheat plants need time to recover, so it is important to scout the crop as late as possible. When the plant has grown new roots, then new leaves will form; this will be aided by cool damp weather. If there is hot dry weather in the spring it can cause cracking and drying of the soil, which will be detrimental to the plants. Winter wheat crops should be assessed between May 15 and 25.