Extension Logo
Extension Logo
University of Minnesota Extension

Spring wheat growth and development guide

Understanding spring wheat growth and development is essential to achieving optimum productivity.

Spring wheat proceeds through a sequence of easily recognizable growth stages that are described by several staging schemes, the most comprehensive being the Zadoks system. Growing conditions and management decisions at any stage can impact the crop’s ultimate performance.

How spring wheat develops


Growth staging systems

A number of staging systems have evolved for describing wheat development. We describe the Zadoks system, which is becoming the most universally accepted, in detail. In addition, we introduce the Haun and Feekes-Large staging systems.


Table 1. Zadoks growth staging system and corresponding Feekes code.

Zadoks code:
Principal stage
Zadoks code:
Secondary stage
Description Corresponding
Feekes code
0 Germination
0 Dry kernel
1 Start of imbibition (water absorption)
5 Radicle emerged
7 Coleoptile emerged
9 Leaf just at coleoptile tip
1 Seeding development 1
0 First leaf through coleoptile
1 First leaf at least 50 percent emerged
2 Second leaf at least 50 percent emerged
3 Third leaf at least 50 percent emerged
4 Fourth leaf at least 50 percent emerged
5 Fifth leaf at least 50 percent emerged
2 Tillering 2
0 Main shoot only
1 Main shoot plus one visible tiller
2 Main shoot plus two tillers
3 Main shoot plus three tillers
4 Main shoot plus four tillers
5 Main shoot plus five tillers 3
3 Stem elongation
1 First node detectable 6
2 Second node detectable 7
3 Third node detectable
7 Flag leaf just visible 8
9 Flag leaf collar just visible 9
4 Boot
1 Flag leaf sheath extending
3 Boot just beginning to swell
5 Boot swollen 10
7 Flag leaf sheath opening
9 First awns visible
5 Head emergence
1 First spikelet of head just visible 10.1
3 One-fourth of head emerged 10.2
5 Half of head emerged 10.3
7 Three-fourths of head emerged 10.4
9 Head emergence complete 10.5
6 Flowering
1 Beginning of flowering 10.5.1
5 Half of florets have flowered 10.5.2
9 Flowering complete
7 Milk development in kernel
1 Kernel watery ripe 10.5.4
3 Early milk
5 Medium milk 11.1
7 Late milk
8 Dough development in kernel
3 Early dough
5 Soft dough 11.2
7 Hard dough, head losing green color
9 Approximate physiological maturity
9 Ripening
1 Kernel hard (difficult to divide with thumbnail) 11.3
2 Thumbnail cannot dent kernel, harvest ripe 11.4

Growth and development

Wheat’s growth cycle has the following divisions: Germination, seedling establishment and leaf production, tillering and head differentiation, stem and head growth, head emergence and flowering and grain filling and maturity.


Phyllis Bongard, Extension content development and communications specialist; Erv Oelke, emeritus Extension agronomist and Steve Simmons, emeritus agronomist, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences.

Reviewed in 2021

Page survey

© 2024 Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved. The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.