The Feekes scale is likely the most commonly used system to describe wheat and other small grain’s growth and development stages. Identification and understanding of plant development is important so that you may time management inputs to optimize crop response. Crop development can also vary considerably from year to year, so reliance on calendar date is not particularly reliable or optimal for management timing. This is particularly evident thus far in 2014, in response to much colder than normal winter temperatures.
Examples of wheat practices which are likely be influenced relative to plant growth stage include nitrogen fertilizer, herbicide, fungicide, and insecticide application timings. Wheat response to freezing temperatures and other environmental stresses can also vary tremendously depending upon growth stage. For instance, wheat flowering begins about 3-5 days after head emergence and can be identified by the emergence of anthers outside the glumes. Fungicide applications should generally be completed by this stage (Feekes 10.5 or 10.51 intial flowering) – read and follow pesticide label for specific directions. Developing kernels are evident immediately thereafter.