You are on page 1of 17

Crop Monitoring and Zadoks Growth Stages for Wheat

Dr Maarten Stapper, CSIRO Plant Industry, GPO Box 1600, Canberra ACT 2601

Contents Introduction Growth stages

Figure 1. Wheat Growth Stages and Phases Table 1. Crop Growth Stages for Cereals - Zadoks Figure 2. Crop Growth Chart Z05 to Z30 Figure 2. Crop Growth Chart (cont.) Z31 to Z71 Figure 3. Crop growth stages for wheat time curves Growth stage observation target Emergence Sowing depth Leaves Tillers Spike initiation Start of Stem elongation Nodes and Stem elongation Flag leaf to Booting Heading and Flowering Frost damage Plant height and peduncle Kernel and Milk development Dough development Ripening 2 2 3 5 6 7 8 9 9 9 9 10 11 12 12 13 13 13 14 14 14 14 15 15 15 16 16 16 17

Plant count & sowing depth Shoot count Ground cover Lodging score Green leaves per shoot Leaf wilting score

Crop monitoring is the skill to link strategic and tactical management decisions to plant development and crop growth. Strategic management relates to decisions before sowing and lessons to be learned within season for future seasons, such as variety choice, crop growth and soil fertility, sowing conditions/sowing rate/seed quality and plant establishment. After sowing, tactical management relates adjustments in timing and quantity of management decisions to crop observations of actual crop condition. For example, in relation to application timing (and need) of herbicides, fungicides, N fertiliser (and water), grazing and harvesting. Also crop monitoring to determine the timing of the occurrence of such yield reducing factors as lodging, waterlogging and frost will, in combination with their severity, determine their effect on grain yield. Such crop related management has been described elsewhere for high-yielding wheat1. It requires knowledge about a developing and growing crop to know relevance of stages of plant development, numbers of plants and plant organs such as tillers, and descriptions of the crop such as ground cover, green area, lodging and wilting. Experiencing usefulness of monitoring is the key to this learning process. Knowing what to look for and setting standards is the first step as was introduced in the mid-eighties2 and followed in subsequent NSW DPI Check programs for wheat3 and rice by John Lacy. Targeted observations and comparison with standards may lead to faster learning and more knowledge. Learn this language of management. Learning is enhanced by making observations in different paddocks within and between seasons as changes in place and time affect crop growth and development. Keeping records is important as memory fails and changes over time. Observations should be representative for a whole paddock to allow comparison with standards, analysis of outcomes and sharing with local group and or agronomist. It is therefore important to examine on each visit the same spots at representative sites of a paddock. Avoid headlands, crop edges and areas near trees and gates. Crop monitoring involves quantification of crop growth and development which allow comparison between crops and seasons, and with the standard in crop management guides. Plant establishment, shoot number, ground cover, lodging and green leaves per shoot can be quantified as described below. Plant development can be observed with growth stages during the season to obtain the timing of critical stages such as start stem elongation and flowering. Figure 1 gives an overview of important development events during the growing season of wheat from sowing till start of grain-filling with the Zadoks4 Decimal Code (Z) for each stage shown (NB. timing not to scale). The Decimal Code Z can be used for the timing of management tasks, helping in the diagnosis of a problem and prediction of future growth stages as shown below and for high-yielding wheat in footnote 1.

Growth stages
The Zadoks Decimal Code (Z, also DC or GS) is used internationally to describe growth stages of cereals. Developmental stages are described in the following, with an adapted Zadoks Decimal Code listed in the Table 1 Crop Growth Stages for Cereals and shown in Figure 2 with pictures of plants to help identify Z-stages. The crop may also achieve most Z-stages not listed in Table 1, either scored as such on an individual plant or as the average across plants. Figure 3 shows examples of average observed Z stage throughout the season for crops of three maturity groups from various sowing dates; triticale and barley following a similar
1 2

M.Stapper, 2007, High-Yielding Irrigated Wheat Crop Management, Irrigated Cropping Forum SIRAGCROP- Field Observations and Crop Standards for Wheat by M.Stapper and D.Murray, 1986 3 Wheatcheck Recommendations, 2003, NSW DPI, Vic DPI, GRZ, ICF. 4 J.C.Zadoks et al., 1974, Weed Research 14:415-421

pattern. They are based on observations at Griffith N.S.W., but seem valid on the plains of southeastern Australia and provide a good indication of development for many other areas, where development will be mostly slower. Curves in Figure 3 are for average conditions with average temperature. During periods in the season phasic development could go faster or slower (eg. when warmer vs cooler). Crop management (healthy vs stressed) and location (topography, soil type and fertility) may also affect rate of development. Changes in soil type may cause bigger variations to the curves in the Figure than regional differences. For example, at Benerembah on a grey-cracking clay flowering was reached 5 to 8 days later when sown on a similar date as on a red loam at Griffith 20 km away, with development at Deniliquin (black soil) more akin to Griffith which lies 170 km northeast. The wet, dark clay remains cooler during winter and hence slows development. Very low sowing rates (< 40 kg/ha vs 100 kg/ha) may cause flowering to be two (eg. 2004) to six (eg. 2003) days later than shown, while visible nitrogen stress at Z30 may cause it to be two to five days earlier. Z-stage during leaf emergence is independent of maturity as shown for three maturities in Figure 3. The three maturity groups shown in Figure 3 are from early to late sowing: late (group 5: Rosella, Wedgetail, Currawong), medium (group 3: Chara, Diamondbird, Giles), and very-early (group 1: H45, H46, Hybrid Mercury), listing varieties used in recent trials (see footnote 1) with more in Table 2. Curves for groups 2 (Drysdale, Hunter, Tamaroi-d, Credit-t, Kosciuszko-t) and 4 (Snipe, Borlaug) can be projected between those for 1 and 3, and 3 and 5, respectively, or 3 to 5 days away from the drawn curves of maturity groups nearest to them. The use of the Figure in crop monitoring is explained further below.
Table 2. Maturity groups derived from three years of core trials with 54 genotypes at Griffith, Benerembah and Deniliquin in southern New South Wales. Sowing dates were between 15 May and 9 June with resulting flowering dates mostly in the optimum flowering period. Varieties of group 6 were used in an early April sowing at Griffith.

Maturity group 1 very early 2 early 3 medium 4 medium late 5 late 6 very late

Variety H46, H45, Hybrid Mercury Hunter, Babbler, Drysdale, Wentworth, Ruby, Ventura Giles, Sunvale Annuello, Janz, Chara, Arrivato, Bellaroi Snipe, Pardalote Rosella, Whistler, Wylah, Wedgetail, Currawong Mackellar, Rudd

Figure 3 shows maturity groups 1, 3 and 5 as sown together on 20 May when each results in subsequent mid-flowering dates in the optimum flowering period on the southern plains (see Fig.4 in footnote 1). Final leaf number on the main shoot for these groups on this sowing date would have been 9.5, 11 (ie. Fig.1) and 12.5, respectively. The next two sowing date examples in the Figure provide comparisons between medium and very early groups. However, on that last sowing date, early July, both fall outside the optimum flowering period. An experienced user can score growth stage of a crop with an accuracy of three days. The curves in Figure 3 can be used to predict next events from an observed stage on a given date for a variety with a particular maturity. Go from that date at the bottom in a straight line up and put a dot at the height of your Z-stage. Find the nearest curve for the maturity you have and follow that line parallel from your dot into the future. Also keep following an imaginary line parallel to one of the drawn lines if observations start to deviate from expected as non-average weather may be experienced. The impact of temperature can be seen in the increase from 25 to 50 days it takes to reach the fourth leaf stage from 20 March to 10 June sowing dates, respectively, and decrease back to 32 days for the August sowing. A range of growth stages should be recorded if the crop is very variable, for example, following uneven emergence or fertility.

Table 1. Crop Growth Stages for Cereals

Adapted Zadoks Decimal Code Zxx (also DCxx, Dxx or GSxx)

0 Emergence
00 01 03 05 07 09 10 11 12 13 14 19 17 18 19 Dry seed sown Seed absorbs water Germination, seed swollen Radicle emerged from seed Coleoptile emerged from seed Leaf at coleoptile tip First leaf through coleoptile and tip visible 1st leaf more then half visible 2nd leaf more then half visible 3rd leaf more then half visible 4th leaf more then half visible 6th leaf more then half visible 7th leaf more then half visible 8th leaf more then half visible 9 or more leaves visible and stem not elongating.

5 Heading
51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 10% of spikes visible (ear peep) 30% of spikes visible 50% of spikes visible 70% of spikes visible 90% of spikes visible Whole spike visible, no yellow anthers Early 20% of spikes with anthers 30% of spikes with yellow anthers Mid half of spikes with anthers 70% of spikes with anthers Late 90% of spikes with anthers

1 Seedling growth

6 Flowering (anthesis)

2 Tillering
20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 41 43 45 47 49 Main shoot only Main shoot and 1 tiller Main shoot and 2 tillers Main shoot and 3 tillers Main shoot and 4 tillers Main shoot and 5 tillers Main shoot and 6 tillers Main shoot and 7 tillers Main shoot and 8 tillers Main shoot and 9 or more tillers stem starts to elongate, spike at 1cm swelling 1st node detectable swelling 2nd node detectable swelling 3rd node detectable swelling 4th node detectable swelling 5th node detectable swelling 6th node detectable Flag leaf tip visible Flag leaf half visible Flag leaf ligule just visible Early boot, flag sheath extending Mid-boot, boot opposite ligule of 2nd last leaf Full-boot, boot above ligule of 2nd last leaf Flag leaf sheath opening First awns visible

7 Kernel and Milk development

70.2 Kernels middle spike extended 20% 70.5 Kernels middle spike half formed 70.8 Kernels middle spike extended 80% 71 Watery ripe, clear liquid 73 Early milk, liquid off-white 75 Medium milk, contents milky liquid 77 Late milk, more solids in milk 79 Very-late milk, half solids in milk

3 Stem elongation 8 Dough development

81-85 spikes turn colour from light-green to yellow-green to yellow 81 Very early dough, more solids and slides when crushed 83 Early dough, soft, elastic and almost dry, shiny 85 Soft dough, firm, crumbles but fingernail impression not held 87 Hard dough, fingernail impression held, spike yellow-brown 89 Late hard-dough, difficult to dent

4 Flag leaf to Booting

9 Ripening
91 Kernels hard, difficult to divide by thumb-nail 92 Harvest ripe, kernels can no longer be divided by thumb-nail and straw still firm 93 Kernels loosening in daytime 94 Over-ripe, straw brittle

Growth stage observation target The stages Z10 till Z39 are based on observations on the main shoot of a plant, which is usually the tallest and thickest shoot as tillers lag behind in development. Pull at random four plants at each sampling site in a paddock to determine the growth stage from the leaves and tillers before stem elongation. Have a good look first, dont start pulling off leaves or tillers until you are sure about what you are doing. Determine the main shoot leaves and tillers per plant together as they have then more meaning (see Fig. 5). From Z39 to Z94 observations are done on average shoots or spikes as the tillers that do survive, elongate and form nodes, have caught up with the main stem. Emergence Z10, takes place when the tip of the first leaf becomes visible. That first leaf grows inside the coleoptile which provides a path through the soil. The coleoptile is white at first and is later detectable as a transparent, withered leaf when pulling a plant out of the soil. For some varieties seeds can be sown too deep to enable the coleoptile delivering the first leaf to the surface. Cloddy conditions and hard setting surfaces may also prevent the coleoptile from reaching the surface. That first leaf of a plant is always easy to recognise as it is the only one with a round tip and is the shortest. All others are pointy and normally each is longer than its predecessor (up until at least L6). Sowing depth Depth of sowing can be determined when doing the plant establishment counts (see below). Pull up the seedlings after loosening the soil and see the remnant seed with (withered) coleoptile still attached. Especially measure sowing depth when experiencing variable emergence as that may be associated with achieved depths of sowing. Figure 4 gives an example of the impact sowing depth can have on seedling growth and related development of tillers. Deep sowing usually results in a sub-crown internode (thin stem-like) raising the crown of the plant nearer to the soil surface away from the seed. Some varieties do this consistently. Others, such as Chara, have crowns raised to various depths and may then have a first leaf and tiller emerging from a crown near the seed and the second and subsequent leaves from a raised crown or even having a third step up. The deepest sowing in Figure 4 shows a raised crown some two cm above the seed. As nodal roots will in time commence growing from the crowns, such a structure could become part of strong anchorage.

Figure 4. The impact of sowing depths of 1, 3 and 6 cm on development and growth of wheat seedlings are shown. Roots had broken off the deep sown seedling as seedlings had been pulled rather than dug out.

Leaves Leaves do appear at regular intervals at the tip of the main shoot. Successive leaves appear on alternate sides. The rate of appearance is controlled by temperature, that

is, the higher the temperature the faster a new leaf appears. Leaves on tillers develop in synchrony with those on the main shoot. Only one leaf at a time is growing on main shoot and on each of the tillers. A leaf is fully emerged when its ligule or collar becomes visible between the emerged leaf blade and its leaf sheath, the hollow stem. Determine the first leaf (round tip), count main stem leaves and round the last emerging leaf to the nearest whole leaf (more than half up, less than half down) with that leaf stage added to Z10. As leaves may emerge over 4 (April sowing) to 14 (August sowing) days depending on temperature, a more accurate Z-stage may include the visible fraction of the emerging leaf. It will certainly enhance accuracy of plotting in Figure 3. As during this phase each next new leaf is longer, the fraction is 0.1 when next tip is visible, 0.4 when new leaf reaches to half the length of the previous leaf, and 0.8 when it reaches the length of the previous leaf, with estimates of the other fractions in increments of 0.1, as described in detail elsewhere5. For example, in Figure 2 Z11.3 for Z11 and Z12.7 for Z13,21, thus narrowing the leaf gap from 2 to 1.4. With more tillers appearing it becomes a little harder to determine the number of leaves on the main stem. Whether or not a leaf is one belonging to the main stem can be determined as follows. First find the first leaf with round tip and keep it at your right hand side (Fig. 1). All the odd leaves are now on the right and the even numbered ones on the left. Peel back the first leaf and notice how it is firmly attached to the main stem. If we find a tiller (possibly having its own tillers) in the axil, notice how easily it breaks off at the base unlike a true main stem leaf. By repeating this process for each alternate next leaf we can determine the number of main stem leaves, and the primary (on main stem) and secondary (on tillers) tillers. Notice that initially for every leaf added to the main stem, the number of leaves on each tiller increases by one as well; for example compare in Figure 2 going from Z14,22 to Z15,23 to Z17,24. That process will cease towards Z30 when no new tillers appear (eg. from Z15,23 to Z17,24, not Z17,26) and redundant tillers will stop growing. Tillers Count the tillers visible on each plant and for tiller stage add the average total per plant to Z20, with a score of Z29 for more than 9 tillers; for accuracy the first decimal of the average may also be included, as with leaf stage above. The Z20s tiller score is always given concurrent with Z10s for leaves or Z30s for nodes as the latter two processes are driven by thermal time while tillering is source (growth) dependent (Fig. 5). A tiller emerges in the axil of a leaf and can be easily removed. The first tiller, Z21, in the axil of the first leaf can be expected when leaf three is half-way out at Z13 (Z12.5). Although before this one a coleoptile tiller may emerge on some plants under favourable conditions as noted in Figure 1, that is, a tiller in the axil of the coleoptile at the seed (Fig.2 Z13,22). Tillering occurs very systematically and a new tiller appears on a shoot every time a new leaf appears. Tillers also will start tillering and the first tiller, T11, of main stem tiller one, T1, can develop before main stem tiller four (Fig.2 Z17,24). The next tiller may already be growing invisibly under the leaf sheath of the leaf above the last tiller. Tillering has ceased if more than two leaf ligules are visible above the uppermost main stem tiller. Usually that happens when either effective ground cover has been reached or stem elongation starts. The tillering period will lengthen or shorten with decreasing or increasing plant density, respectively. Figure 5 shows the slowed emergence and lower number of tillers for stressed plants and those sown deep as presented in Figure 4.

M.Stapper and R.A.Fischer (1990) Australian Journal of Agricultural Research, 41(6): 997-1056


Figure 5. Tillering as a function of leaves per plant and being dependent on management and variety. The normal 2 crop and low density lines show tillering for a 150 and 70 plants/m stand, respectively. The low density trajectory may also be followed for early sown very late (winter) wheat, leading to 14 tillers at Z17 and 30 tillers at Z19.

Tillering stops under adverse conditions of water or nitrogen stress and water logging as new tillers only emerge when daily growth is over a threshold (see footnote 1). It may then restart when conditions become favourable again, depending on the stage of initiated spike and related start of stem elongation (see below). The next tiller may then skip one or more main stem leaf-axils as each tiller-window remains only open for a limited time. A tiller may also be missing in the axil of leaf one under marginal conditions during emergence. Missing tillers in the expected tillering pattern can be used to diagnose a problem that occurred earlier in the crops history. The presence of coleoptile tillers will indicate achievement of a very good seedbed in combination with relatively shallow sowing. The seedling on the left and centre in Figure 4 has a coleoptile tiller on its left and then the first leaf with a tiller on the right. Figure 5 shows normal tillering for a typical 150 plants/m2 density sown in May under nonlimiting conditions and typically achieving stage Z16,26 on the southern plains. Sowing before early April with increasing vernalisation requirement of varieties creates a longer tilleringwindow. For example, very late (eg. Mackellar, Rudd; group 6), late (eg. Rosella, Currawong; group 4) and medium (eg. Janz, Chara; group 3) maturities sown in early April typically have, without stresses, about 30, 15 and 8 tillers per plant, respectively, from 110 plants/m2. These result in shoot densities around 3400, 1800 and 1000 shoots/m2, respectively. The latter, a Chara-type, had the most preferred shoot density (see below) but flowered in mid-August and was frosted. The number of tillers that survives depends on the achieved shoot density and availability of solar energy, nitrogen and water (see footnote 1). Usually tillers that do elongate and form nodes will be spike bearing. From flowering onwards their development becomes similar, with some tillers even becoming earlier then main stems. Spike initiation Floral initiation and terminal spikelet stages are the start and finish of the spike initiation phase (Fig. 1, box Fig. 2). Final leaf number (ie. the flag) is being set with initiation of the floral (spike) on the main shoot. Maturity is delayed with an increasing number of leaves that form and subsequently emerge on a plant, resulting in delayed flag leaf stage and hence flowering. Floral initiation occurs relatively later, for example from Z14 (box Fig.2) to Z15, for later maturing varieties on a given sowing date.


For varieties with a vernalisation requirement floral initiation occurs relatively later with earlier and later sowing on either side of late-June, thereby resulting in higher final leaf numbers. This is more pronounced for the increasing vernalisation requirement from maturity group 3 to 6. Vernalisation is delayed when pre-floral-initiation temperatures become higher. For example, likely final leaf numbers are given in brackets for early April, Mid-May and late-July sowings, respectively, for H45 (8.5, 9, 8), Chara (13.5, 11.3, 12), Rosella (15.8, 11.8, 12.8) and Mackellar (17,12.4, no initiation); representative of very-early, medium, late and very late maturities, respectively. A late-July sowing at Griffith is too warm for Mackellar to vernalise and remains therefore vegetative. Similar for group 5 varieties from an early September sowing. To achieve final leaf numbers of 17, 14, 11 and 8, spike initiation has roughly to take place before leaf stage 12, 10, 7 (Z17) and 5 (Z15). Terminal spikelet initiation, the one at the tip of a spike, marks the end of spike initiation and sets the number of spikelets on the spike-to-be (see Fig. 2 spike initiation box and Z65). The spikelets on the young spike are generally initiated between leaf stages 6.5 and 10 (Z 17 to 30) for an early sown late maturity, and between 4 and 7 (Z14 to 17) for a May sown medium maturity. This process can be monitored by looking through a magnifying glass at the growing point of a seedling, just above the crown (box Fig. 2). Terminal spikelet stage is associated with spike at 1cm, Z30, and 10 mm is about the length the true stem has reached then. Up till this point the stem of seedlings has been not a true stem, but made up of stacked leaf sheaths. Timing of terminal spikelet stage, the end of spike initiation, thus becomes visible with delays in start of stem elongation for increased maturity as shown for the three maturities in 20 May sowing of Figure 3; groups 5 (late), 3 (medium) and 1 (very early) having final leaf numbers of 12.5, 11 (ie. Fig.1) and 9.5, respectively, causing delayed achievement of Z30. Soon after terminal spikelet stage rapid elongation of the true stem will begin (Fig. 1). The young spike is then still well below the soil surface. The spike remains smaller then 10mm up till flag leaf stage, Z39. Without magnifying glass the completion of spikelet initiation can therefore be determined by looking at the length of the true stem on the developing plant. Compare stem in Figure 2 spike initiation box and process in Z13,21 to Z15,23 and Z17,24 where the length of the stem increases from a couple of mm to 10 mm during initiation of the spikelet primordia from floral initiation to terminal spikelet stage (Fig. 1), and being already 20 mm for Z17,24. Start of Stem elongation Figure 1 shows the height increase of the base of the spike during the process of stem elongation from floral initiation till after flowering. The initiated spike is at the tip of the elongating stem, hence the term spike at 1cm as the indicator for stem elongation commencement, Z30, which will then accelerate soon. Check plants for occurrence by pulling away main stem tiller bunches and peel away remaining main stem leaves, or using a knife. For early sown very late (and late) maturities there is sometimes a false elongation of the first internode before the spike has been fully initiated. Such internode stem remains short and thin before a next one starts to elongate, however, without forming a node in between and still remaining below the soil surface. Z17,24 in Figure 2 also shows another indicator for likely occurrence of Z30. That is, when the height, H, of the last formed main stem leaf ligule reaches 10 to 12 cm above the soil. Nodes and Stem elongation Figure 1 shows the appearance of successive nodes during stem elongation and the increase in height above the soil surface for successive nodes, always remaining just under the spike. Stem elongation is taking place in the zone where the node is forming just below the young spike. In the field feel the developing node on four plants per observation site. The first node stage, Z31, is reached when a thickening, a knob can be felt at the bottom of the main stem as low as just at the soil surface. Z32 is reached when the next bump can be felt above the first node, which usually occurs when that internode has reached 60% of its final length (ie. Z31.6 with fraction). Only one internode elongates at the time and ceases growth with formation of a node, and continuing with


elongation of the next internode ever pushing the spike up, which thus remains just above the developing node. Hence the position of the spike remains some 10-12 cm below the ligule of the last fully emerged leaf (see Fig.2 Z32). Flag leaf to Booting The final leaf or flag leaf will appear at the tip (Z37 to 39) during the formation of the second last node (Fig. 1), which is at Z32-33 for most sowings of varieties in groups 1-3 and at Z33-34 for groups 4-6 sown before mid-April. Plants are then some 40 cm tall. Check if it really is the flag by removing the top leaves. Z39 is reached when the flag leaf has fully emerged, that is, its ligule becomes visible between blade and sheath (Fig. 1 and 2). On the plains it will on average be some 25 days from Z39 to a Z65 (mid-flowering) occurring in the optimum period around 1 October, with Z50 (start heading, ear peep) occurring halfway (Fig. 3), with this duration between 20 and 30 days for hot and cool periods, respectively. As tillers are catching up with main stems, growth stages are now determined by looking at the whole crop area at each observation site. Estimate the growth stage of the average shoot for booting (Z40 to 49) and heading (Z50 to 60) stages. The position of the spike or boot relative to the ligule of the second last leaf determines the boot stages: Z41 (below ligule, no swelling), Z43 (swelling opposite ligule) or Z45 (full boot, above ligule), with examples given in Figure 2. From flag leaf till full-boot (Z39 to Z45) the spike grows and develops roughly from 10 mm to 100 mm (Fig. 1). This is an important first part of sink size determination where before the crop had been developing primarily the source with roots to feed it. Where source is the green matter of leaves and stems for the capture of carbon dioxide with solar energy (=photosynthesis) and sink the final depository of carbohydrates and nutrients in grain, determined by spike and kernel numbers and sizes (see footnote 1). The spike has reached its full length when it emerges from the tip of the flag-leaf sheath, for example, awns first in Figure 2 Z49. That picture shows the structure of the shoot with the leaf sheath of each leaf blade, connected at ligule, wrapped around the stem and connected to the stem at a node, for example, the flag leaf to node 5. Figure 1 shows how such a structure develops over a season. The spike, sink size, is further developed during heading, flowering and kernel growth phases (Fig. 1; footnote 1). Heading and Flowering Z51 is when the terminal spikelet of the spike becomes visible, ear peep. Heading continues till the complete spike has emerged, still without yellow anthers extruding from its florets, Z60 (Fig. 2 Z60). Flowering starts, Z61, when the first yellow anthers are visible on up to 10 percent of shoots. Check inside green basal florets in middle of spike when there are no yellow anthers visible. Under stress conditions fertilization may take place with yellow anthers remaining inside, as barley normally may do (even sometimes in boot), otherwise the anthers are green with flowering still to commence. Mid-flowering or anthesis, Z65, is reached when half of the shoots have yellow anthers visible; on a single plant it is reached when the middle half of the spikes spikelets has anthers visible (Fig. 2 Z65). That last one also shows a picture of a spikelet with five florets of which three would have had anthers that fertilized. When the carpel is fertilized, the once feathery stigma shrivels immediately. Flowering in the optimum period around 1 October takes place in 5 to 7 days, but some varieties may flower outside this range as some are more synchronous than others. Visible nitrogen stress at Z30 (senesced bottom leaves, few light-green leaves, poor tillering) may result in 2 to 5 days earlier flowering compared with non-stressed. Very low sowing rates (< 40 kg/ha vs 100 kg/ha) will both delay the start (Z65: 6 days in 2003, 2 days in 2004) and lengthen the flowering period because the presence of many tillers slows the main stem and the process. Frost damage First frost damage to spikes may occur during spike emergence which shows as a band of dead, empty spikelets that had emerged the day before a frost. Next frost damage is during flowering when frost causes sterility, which shows as the florets affected


opening up wide for days after frost. The last stage of frost damage is when the young growing kernel is killed by frost. Experience of farmers has shown that frost damage substantially increases with late topdressing of nitrogen as demonstrated in spit-topdressed paddocks (see footnote 1). Plant height and peduncle From Z49 stem elongation continuous with the formation of the peduncle, the stem between the top node and the spike (Fig. 1). Final shoot height is reached during flowering with the peduncle usually between 30 and 40 cm. It is an important site of stored pre-anthesis reserves to be translocated during grain filling. Kernel and Milk development Kernel development immediately after fertilization is an important phase where kernel number is set and potential size is determined (Fig. 1). The first Zadoks stage after flowering is watery ripe, Z71, which is some 10 days after mid-flowering in our optimum flowering period. It may thus be difficult to define mid-flowering with an infrequent visit to the crop falling in the period after Z69 (nearly all spikes with white anthers) and before Z71. Hence stages Z70.1 to Z70.8 (Fig. 2) have been introduced to fill this gap (see footnote 5). They are based on relative kernel extension in a mid-spike basal floret following fertilization as shown in the Figure. The decimal then roughly indicates the days after mid-flowering, when flowering in the optimum period. Hence, Z70.5 is about five days after Z65. Thus after flowering is complete you have to look at each sampling area in mid-spike basal florets on four average-height spikes to determine the stage of either the degree of extension by the developing kernel before Z71 or its content when squeezed thereafter. Always choose kernels in basal florets of mid-spikelets. The spikelet in Figure 2 Z65, for example, will probably have kernels in the three lower florets, closest to the spikelet stem, the two upper florets remaining empty. Z71 to Z79 are the milk stages with a white liquid dominating the kernel content. During grainfilling towards potential with sufficient green leaves per shoot left, Z79 marks the stage where half the grain weight has been achieved (see Fig. 4 footnote 1). Dough development Z81 to Z89 is the final phase of grain filling and start of ripening. Very early dough stage, Z81, is reached when the kernel starts to slide when squeezed due to deposits on its wall and more solids in the milky content. At this time spikes of a crop start to turn light-green, turning to yellow by soft dough, Z85. That happen independent of the leaves as it is a sign of maturing and is dependent on the source (green area)sink (spikes) size balance which is set before flowering and is affected by temperature. Leaves may remain greener longer while spike is maturing if a crop is sink limited. Spike will mature quicker through the dough stages if crop becomes source limited by drought senescing the leaves prematurely, resulting in low kernel weight and possibly high screenings. Nitrogen stress and leaf disease are other factors causing source limitation and a pre-mature end of grain-filling. Z83, early dough, is reached when the kernel content becomes soft, elastic and almost dry, still shiny. Soft dough, Z85, is reached when the kernel content becomes firm and crumbly but a fingernail impression is not held. A fingernail impression is held at hard dough, Z87. Maximum grain weight, however, has already been achieved at Z86, just after soft dough (see footnote 1). Z86 is reached when the fingernail impression slowly veers back to almost original state. Late hard-dough, Z89, stage is reached when only a very small dent can be made with fingernail. Ripening The moisture content is about 40% at Z86 and continues to drop during the ripening phase till reaching about 12% at harvest ripe, Z92. Days with rainfall reverse and slow this drying process, a process which may cause weather damage and downgrade of grain quality. Z91 is reached when it becomes difficult to divide the kernel longitudinally. When harvest is delayed past Z92, grain becomes loose, Z93, and straw brittle, Z94, with increasing chance of shattering losses and broken grain during harvest. Harvest seed for following seasons therefore at Z91 to retain higher seed quality.


Plant count & sowing depth

Crop establishment is one of the eleven key checks for best management practice in Wheat Check Recommendations (see footnote 3). It describes factors that may result in not achieving the planned uniform plant population and thereby require adjustment of sowing rate. The resulting plant establishment is best assessed around Z12, usually within a month of sowing (Fig. 3). Counting seedlings becomes difficult and will take more time at later growth stages as plants have started tillering from Z13. Put a 0.5 m stick between two rows and count the number of seedlings on both sides to get a one meter total. Repeat this at 20 locations across the paddock and calculate the average. Multiplication with 5.6 gives the number of plants per square meter for seven inch row spacing. The Wheat Check booklet provides a table for conversion of counts for other row spacing. More counts are required in situations with variable emergence and large gaps around plants. When doing random counts in spots where the thrown stick lands, dont move the stick if it fell in a place with just a few plants! Simply increase the number of counts to get a more reliable average. Sowing depth can be determined when doing the plant establishment counts by loosening the soil and pulling seedlings out with the remnant seed still attached. Sowing depth is then measured from the seed till where the colour of the stem changes from white to green (Fig. 4). Measuring sowing depth at the same sites as plant counts may point to variability of the latter associated with depth of sowing.

Shoot count
Shoot number is an indicator for the potential number of spike bearing shoots. Hence it starts with the plant count and increases with tillering. The target shoot number for high yields is 600-800 shoots/m2 by Z30, as a higher number increases lodging risk (see footnote 1). Non-stressed plants will start tillering at Z13 which usually proceeds till Z16 for May sowings (Fig. 5). Earlier sowings may proceed with tillering longer and very early ones with very late (winter) wheats may do so beyond Z18. Tillering period shortens with later sowing. Higher plant density, deeper sowing or low fertility slows rate of tillering and shortens duration (Fig. 5). Shoot number can be determined by doing ten shoot counts with the 0.5 m stick at or before Z30 when tillering has ceased, or from plant establishment and average tiller number. A plant establishment of 156 plants/m2 achieving 4.7 tillers/plant thus has a shoot number of 889 shoots/ m2. A similar count of spike bearing shoots later will yield spike number. The accuracy of the method used to determine shoot count, direct count or calculated from average tiller number per plant and average plant density, depends heavily on uniformity of the stand. As above for plant count, variability in a paddock requires direct counts and more of them, with the average times average then usually greatly overestimating the real shoot number.

Ground cover
Crop growth is determined by incoming solar energy, temperature, water and ground cover during the season. The first two factors are beyond control, water can be managed to a degree but ground cover depends completely on management. Ground cover is affected negatively by water and nutrient shortages, water logging, leaf and root diseases and sparse or deep seed placement. Early in the season ground cover, and therefore crop growth, is determined by the initial plant configuration and the degree of tillering. Later it depends on the spike density and green leaves per shoot. Ground cover thus determines the crop growth rate. It can be estimated visually by looking at a confined area of the crop two meters in front of you. Look at the crop through a circle formed with thumb and index finger held 10 cm from the eye. Estimate the percentage of the surface covered by sunlit and shaded green leaves in increments of 10 percent. First determine whether the cover is above or below 50% and narrow it down to a final estimate.


Repeat this several times in different directions at each site until confident about the average cover for that area of the paddock. The observation should not be done early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the sun angle is low. Effective ground cover and near maximum growth rate is reached when cover is more than 90%. Growth rates can then be up to 250 kg/ha/d drymatter and nitrogen uptake rates 3 kg N/ha/d (Fig. 1). The latter rate may be extended till after flowering for high yielding crops (see footnote 1).

Lodging score
Lodging commencing between flowering and late milk reduces grain yield with 1% for every 2 units increase in lodging score (see footnotes 1 and 5). This rate of loss declines gradually when lodging starts during the dough stages. Generally, there will be a yield loss when lodging occurs in a crop with green leaves as lodging will cause more mutual shading by which some spikes receive less solar energy than intended when the spike was formed. Lodging before anthesis may keep yield losses to 20% as plants can right themselves at a node as stem elongation is still active. Resulting spikes thus will be a lot shorter and not likely to lodge more severely. The lodging score is assessed from the fraction of the area affected and the severity of lodging in those areas. This degree of lodging is judged as the angle from vertical. That is, going from 0 for a standing crop to 90 for a crop flat on the ground. The lodging score is then the proportion of the area affected multiplied with the degree of lodging. For example, if in a third of the paddock stems are leaning 30 degrees from vertical then the lodging score is 10 (0.33*30). If by a next visit 0.4 of the paddock has an average leaning of 70 degrees then the lodging score is (0.4*70=28) say 30.

Green leaves per shoot

Leaf area duration is the major factor determining grain yield once spike number is no longer limiting. From flowering onwards the green leaves per shoot can be used to assess yield potential (see Fig. 4 in footnote 1) when shoot density is adequate (~500-600/m2). For example, an eight tonne crop would require 3.5 green leaves at flowering (Z65). The better the crop is, the more uniform the shoots are. Leaves do senesce from the bottom up during development as carbohydrate reserves and minerals are gradually sucked out of leaves and transported to new growing parts. This process goes faster, resulting in less green leaves per shoot, if supply by photosynthesis is limited (eg. lack of water or nitrogen). During grain filling reserves are transported from leaves and stem to the growing grain to satisfy the demand by kernels if dry matter production for that day is inadequate. Count the green leaves from the flag (top) down and include fractions of leaves that are partially yellow. Repeat this several times for shoots in the area you are standing and get an average. You will notice that this number is very uniform for good crops. Leaf diseases will reduce this green area and make it more difficult to obtain a good assessment.

Leaf wilting score

Wilting is the reaction of a plant to water stress. It is caused by loss of water pressure (turgor) in plant cells. Lower leaves loose turgor sooner then upper ones. Flag leaf rolling occurs on many varieties when water stress starts. The leaf on a well watered plant can be bent (not crushed), and the leaf will quickly regain its original position. A severely stressed leaf will remain limp. The score of the rigidness of a leaf is used to describe the degree of water stress. The score ranges from 0 for a well watered plant to 5 for a severely stressed plant. Wilting should be scored between 11 am and 3 pm. The following method was adopted from Dr Tony Fischer. Pick off the lowest green leaf on a shoot and remove any dead material at the end of the leaf. Then do the following:


Score 0. The leaf springs beyond the horizontal level before coming to rest at horizontal level. Score 1. The leaf returns to the horizontal position without going beyond. Score 2. The leaf returns to a position below horizontal, closer to horizontal than to vertical. Score 3. The leaf returns to a position below horizontal that is closer to vertical than horizontal. Score 4. The leaf remains vertical. Score 5. The flag leaf is tightly rolled to less than half its usual width. At this point there will be no lower green leaves as these have died from drought.

Irrigators It is recommended to make a wilting score just before irrigation. A score of 1 on

the day of irrigation would indicate that the watering was just in time to prevent water stress. A score of 2 or more would indicate that the current water depletion is well above the allowable depletion. A location in the paddock with a lighter soil (ie. less allowable depletion) could be used to calibrate this method for the best timing of irrigation for the paddock. It could become an early warning that a score of 1 or 2 could develop soon for the rest of the paddock.

Now you also know how your plants develop?

you cant manage what you dont observe and measure