From the Field: Freeze Wreaks Havoc on Kansas Wheat Crop

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The photos shared here would be beautiful, if they weren’t a symbol of the impact Mother Nature has on the 2013 wheat crop. 

When temperatures plummeted from weekend highs near 70 degrees throughout Kansas, to the teens on April 9, grain traders immediately turned their attention to the wheat fields of Kansas.

It’s not a pretty sight.

From her farm near Stafford, Kim Fritzemeier wrote us: “There hasn’t been much melting today, with temperatures staying below freezing and no sun. Even my eternal optimist [husband Randy, who is a KAWG Director] isn’t as optimistic this afternoon. As he says, ‘It’s good we have insurance.’ Maybe the hail/ice that fell last night will insulate the crop…here in Central Kansas, we may be in better shape than western Kansas because our temperatures haven’t been in the teens. Time will tell, I guess.”

Jim Shroyer, wheat specialist at Kansas State University, says this was a “hard freeze,” with temperatures falling into the teens in western Kansas April 9, with additional dips the night of April 10. Those temperatures will cause damage to the wheat crop. In central and eastern Kansas, temperatures fell only to the upper 20s.  

Shroyer mentions the good news: this year’s wheat crop is not nearly as far along in development as it was at this time last year, due to the drought and cool winter and spring temperatures.

“But, any wheat at the jointing stage or later will probably lose some tillers where temperatures were in the teens for an extended time,” he notes. “Where only some of the tillers have been damaged, there is still plenty of time for undamaged tillers to compensate and minimize any potential yield loss, but that will depend on having adequate moisture, which is uncertain this year.”

Vance Ehmke, who farms near Dighton, says temperatures dipped to 18 degrees the night of April 9. In an e-mail forwarded to Kansas Wheat, he reports: “I just checked several fields and varieties. All fields are very dry. Wheat that was planted earlier and is bigger is also worst looking. TAM 112 was frozen inside, joint is right above crown or not jointed. Drought stressed. A nearby field of triticale has joint right above crown. Like the 112, leaves look dark and frozen. T158 has joint right above crown. TAM 304 has joint 1.5 inches above crown and barely out of ground. Wheat condition is better on the 304 but it’ was later planted and not as big.  The bigger wheat has better root system but is very dry around those roots. Temp was 20 early last night and spent most of last night at or slightly lower than 20. At 9-10 AM, it’s still only up to 25 degrees.”

Finally, although south central Kansas temperatures were not as extreme as those in western Kansas, Kansas Wheat Commissioner Scott Van Allen said as of mid-afternoon on Wednesday, it was 29 degrees on his Sumner County farm: “Hopefully the ice and water will help insulate the wheat from the cold,” Van Allen wrote, attaching photos from his fields in an e-mail.  

It will take at least a few days to determine the extent of damage to the Kansas wheat crop, Shroyer reports. In a special edition of the K-State Agronomy Update, the agronomist offers tips on freeze diagnosis and his prognosis of the crop up to this point.

Kansas Wheat will continue to monitor the freeze situation. If you have comments, observations or wish to share photos of your wheat, please respond in the comments section.

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2 Responses to From the Field: Freeze Wreaks Havoc on Kansas Wheat Crop

  1. Pingback: NAWG Newsletter – Quick Edition: Week of April 11, 2013 « National Association of Wheat Growers

  2. Pingback: Colby, KS Today » From the Field: Freeze Wreaks Havoc on Kansas Wheat Crop

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