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Three Stages of Winter Wheat - Stage Three: Heading and Stem Extension

Posted on August 03, 2021


Early stages of many foliar diseases oftentimes present as leaf spotting on the wheat’s leaf, making identification difficult. Holding the flag leaf up to a light or the sky can be helpful in locating early foliar disease development. It is imperative to catch diseases like rust or Septoria (Figure 1) before they destroy the cells on the flag leaf. Think of every cell on the flag leaf as a solar panel providing energy to a building. If someone starts destroying the individual solar panels with a hammer, the building will start losing power. A similar effect will occur in a disease-infected wheat plant; the more cells that are destroyed due to the presence of foliar disease, the less energy the plant will receive. The flag leaf constitutes about 75% of the effective leaf area that will feed the head and fill the grain.

Figure 1: Septoria on wheat.

Supplementing nitrogen and other nutrients to the wheat while applying your fungicide will boost seed set and increase test weight. An application of fertilizer at this time is especially beneficial after topdress applications of nitrogen may have washed away in heavy rains. This nitrogen may not have been fully utilized to result in rapid spring growth. The application of foliar fertilizer to wheat is equally as important as a fungicide application. The plant needs nutrients to support and increase grain fill as much as it needs the disease protection from a fungicide.


A properly-timed nutrient management program is essential for maximizing yields at harvest.

To download our High Yield Wheat Program, visit

Additional Resources

Three Stages of Winter Wheat - Stage One: Pre-Emergent and Planting
Three Stages of Winter Wheat - Stage Two: Tillering and Topdress


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