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Wheat Scoop: Winter storm aftermath felt in wheat country


The late March storm that dumped more than 20-inches of snow in parts of Kansas was welcomed by farmers who suffered through one of the driest winters on record.

In some areas of Kansas, however, the snow blanketed wheat that had broken winter dormancy and was past the jointing stage. The jury is still out on whether that wheat is damaged.

Kansas Wheat Commissioner Scott Van Allen, who farms near Clearwater, scouted his wheat fields after the snow and ice melted.

"The crop has a brown cast to it. It just looks bad," Van Allen said. "Some of the leaf tissue has been frozen off and it looks just like when you give wheat a heavy dose of nitrogen and it turns brown after you spray it. And the later-planted wheat looks worse than the early-planted wheat."

Jim Shroyer, Extension agronomist at Kansas State University, says it will take several days before farmers will know whether the crop has permanent damage.

"I think most of the wheat is probably okay. I'm hopeful that any damage will be minimal," he says. "When the wheat is greening up and those leaves are encased in ice or snow, the cell walls or membranes in the leaves can break. If this occurs in the main stem, the tillers can still be productive," he says.

Shroyer had not yet scouted any wheat fields in south central Kansas, where the crop was most mature, by the time a second winter storm had descended upon much of the state on April 2.

For many farmers, the moisture--whether in the form of rain or snow--is welcome. Much of the state is still in dire need of precipitation. Even factoring in the late March snow storm, western and central Kansas are well below average in precipitation accumulation, says Mary Knapp, State Climatologist for Kansas.

West central and central Kansas, Knapp says, have still received less than 55 percent of normal precipitation for the year. North central Kansas, she adds, has received just 21 percent of the normal precipitation.

"The March and April storms brought improvement, but they certainly will not solve the problem," she says.

The U.S. Wheat Associates has recapped conditions of other winter wheat producing states.

In Oklahoma, one- to two-inches of snow and rain fell on what had been a severely dry region, although it missed producers in the southwest portion of the state, where hopes for an average crop are fading with on-going drought. Wheat there is heading about three weeks ahead of normal, due to drought.

In Colorado, blizzard conditions March 26 and 27 helped many farmers and improved the wheat crop outlook a great deal. Half the crop is rated good to excellent.

Nebraska's Hard Red Wheat crop is rated 68 percent good to excellent, faring much better than the 2008 crop to this point.

And in Texas, only 12 percent of the crop is reported to be good to excellent, due to lack of moisture. Just 34 percent of the Texas wheat crop is reported to be normal, compared to 46 percent at this time last year.

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