Is the Winter Wheat Crop in Trouble?

Is the Winter Wheat Crop in Trouble?

Winter wheat could suffer from cold-snap. Winter wheat could suffer from cold-snap.

March 21, 2016

An unexpected bout of cold weather has many concerned about the devastation it could bring to their winter wheat crop.

Agronomists say it will take several days to assess the damage in the Midwest, where major winter wheat growing states like Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma saw several hours of temperatures below freezing. They say because of an early winter thaw, wheat in some areas is an estimated two to three weeks ahead of schedule. Extended periods of cold weather could be disastrous if it matches sensitive crop phases.

"If wheat has jointed already," said Romulo Lollato, assistant professor in the agronomy department at Kansas State University, "and by that I mean the growing point is already above the ground level so it is not insulated by the ground anymore, and temperatures are in the low 20's for a few to several hours, it can really damage the stem, the leaves, but more importantly, the developing wheat head."

Beyond the dangers of an ill-timed freeze, an early spring and premature wheat crop development may also raise the risk for drought later on in the year. That's because a more developed wheat plant would need more water.  The longer growing season can also raise the prospect for diseases affecting crop yields in the months to come.

Story provided by Kansas State University and RFD-TV staff.

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