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A Midwinter's Thaw Nightmare?
Minnesota Ag Connection - 02/09/2024

While the title of this blog post is probably not the best antonym for Shakespeare's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream', the weather fairies are creating some intrigue and possible mischief for the state's winter annuals and perennials with this extended midwinter thaw that is breaking records up and down the State. Before I can argue that winter wheat and winter rye crops are NOT doomed, I'll try to explain how winter wheat and winter rye get through the winter.

Winter wheat and winter rye both have a vernalization requirement. Vernalization is the accumulation of a set number of cold units. Cold units are accumulated when soil and ambient temperatures are roughly between 32 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit. This requirement is an evolutionary adaptation to delay the transition from vegetative growth to reproductive growth even if the temperatures are (temporarily) very favorable: As long as the vernalization requirement is not met, the growing point will stay below ground and is partially protected from freezing temperatures. The vernalization genes impart low-temperature tolerance that allows the crop to go dormant once the temperatures fall below freezing. This dormancy is not a static condition and wanes as the crown ages throughout the winter.

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