Wheat growth guide

The AHDB Wheat growth guide allows crop progress, structure and final performance to be measured and compared against a series of UK benchmarks.

To manage crops effectively, it is important to set targets, assess progress, adjust inputs and monitor success. Our wheat growth guidance outlines the main crop growth stages and components of yield, as well as the opportunities for management.

Growth guides for wheat, barley and oilseed rape

Introduction to wheat growth and benchmarks

The growth stages of cereals

It is useful to break down the cereal life cycle into various growth stages. By understanding the main crop development stages, it becomes easier to measure crop performance and informs husbandry choices.

The growth stages of cereals

Key development phases and growth stages in wheat

As wheat progresses through its life cycle, the crop changes in form (development) and accumulates dry matter (growth). Discover how these changes can be described by key cereal growth stages and developmental phases.

Key development phases and growth stages in wheat

How to use benchmarks to assess cereal growth

Measurements are vital to good management and for learning. As well as assessing weeds, pests and diseases, managers must assess the cereal plant itself. Crop progress, structure and final performance can then be compared with benchmarks (where available) or new targets.

How to use benchmarks to assess cereal growth

Natural resource capture and conversion by cereals

Discover how wheat and barley capture and convert natural resources (solar energy, carbon dioxide and water) into edible (e.g. grain) and other forms of biomass/energy.

Natural resource capture and conversion by cereals

The foundation phase

Establishment in wheat (germination and emergence)

From the seed, to its germination and emergence, the early part of wheat’s foundation phase establishes the crop and determines plant populations. Learn how to optimise and measure these early growth stages.

Establishment in wheat (germination and emergence)

Leaf emergence and tillering growth stages in winter wheat

The production of leaves and tillers (side shoots) is an essential part of canopy development. Careful management is needed to optimise and protect these structures to help maximise potential wheat yields.

Leaf emergence and tillering growth stages in winter wheat

How to promote and measure root growth

Ensuring that wheat and barley crops have well-developed root systems is essential for optimum water and nutrient capture. An understanding of the factors that influence root growth makes it easier to identify management interventions.

How to promote and measure root growth

Nitrogen supply and demand in winter wheat

Around half of wheat nitrogen (N) demand is met from soil supply, with the other half coming from applied nitrogen fertilisers. Find out about the sources of nitrogen and the crop growth stages when it is taken up.

Nitrogen supply and demand in winter wheat

How to measure plant populations, nitrogen uptake and dry matter in cereals

An estimate of cereal plant populations and growth (in a quadrat) will indicate if targets have been met. Use this information to guide in-season crop management decisions and future strategy (e.g. seed rates).

How to measure plant populations, nitrogen uptake and dry matter in cereals

The construction phase

Management of canopy expansion and senescence in winter wheat

Canopy size determines the proportion of sunlight intercepted, which drives the accumulation of dry matter. Learn how to manage canopy growth and lifespan to help maximise winter wheat yields.

Management of canopy expansion and senescence in winter wheat

How to measure growth area index (GAI) in cereals

The crop’s green area index (GAI) is the ratio of green leaf and stem area to the area of ground on which the crop is growing. Use measurements of GAI during the growing season, alongside targets, to guide canopy management.

How to measure growth area index (GAI) in cereals

Biomass growth and dry matter accumulation in wheat

Biomass growth represents the net effect of photosynthesis, after losses from respiration and leaf fall. It can be assessed by measuring changes in above-ground dry matter over time.

Biomass growth and dry matter accumulation in wheat

Measurement of stem extension and stem reserves in wheat

Careful management of cereals is essential to help the crop reach its optimum height and minimise lodging risks. Learn about the main-stem benchmarks and how stem reserves provide significant amounts of carbohydrates to filling grains.

Measurement of stem extension and stem reserves in wheat

The production phase

Ear formation, grain development and crop ripening in wheat

Capacity for grain filling is set by grain number per unit area and the storage capacity of each grain. Satisfying the capacity depends on photosynthesis, as well as the redistribution of stem reserves.

Ear formation, grain development and crop ripening in wheat

The main components of yield in wheat

From the number of ears to the weight of individual grains, this page outlines the main components of wheat yields. It also includes the main crop benchmarks for yield and protein.

The main components of yield in wheat

Highly heritable wheat quality traits

Some quality characteristics, such as protein concentration, specific weight and Hagberg Falling Number (HFN), are highly heritable in wheat. Learn about the genetic (varietal) and other factors that affect these traits, as well as the typical market specifications.

Highly heritable wheat quality traits

Cereal growth guide: a glossary of terms

From anthesis to xylem, cereal growth is described with a wide array of terms. Some of the most commonly used are outlined in this glossary.

Cereal growth guide: a glossary of terms


Examples of the foundation, construction and production phases in cereals

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