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Farmers assessing crop damage after freeze beats up Plains wheat

Agriculture.com Staff 04/22/2009 @ 11:00am

The hard red winter wheat crop is reaching out of dormancy in the Plains in a time of great variability in conditions.

A late freeze earlier this month came at a bad time for the crop in south-central Kansas, officials say. The wheat had alerady emerged from dormancy and jointed there, making the early-April freeze a particularly dangerous one there.

"In isolated areas, the main stem of the wheat plant was ruined due to the freeze, and farmers are relying on secondary tillers to overcome the damage," says Bill Spiegel, communications specialist with Kansas Wheat.

Moving north, the frost damage was lighter because the wheat was not as far along in its development. Spiegel says this factor, combined with beneficial rainfall since the frosty temperatures in early April, should help the crop get a jump on the homestretch into harvest.

"Areas of western Kansas received two-plus inches of rain last week, helping to ease a prolonged dry spell. This rain may be too late to help the southwest quarter of Kansas, but has dramatically improved the conditions in east central Kansas," he says. "There are areas of north central Kansas that are still extremely dry and rain is needed, quickly, for the crop to have a chance at being above average. The eastern third of Kansas looks great, and fields in central Kansas not affected by freeze also look great."

The wheat here in southeastern Nebraska was pretty small [when the frost hit], so I don't suspect much damage, but who knows what can happen?" adds Marketing Talk member dirtdt.

But, further south, the frost was harder on the crop. Agriculture Online Marketing Talk members say there's considerably more damage in parts of Oklahoma.

"Our wheat is 75% to 90% damaged in Grant and Garfield counties [Oklahoma], and I have heard much is the same from Kay County as well," says Marketing Talk member matt s. "Much of the damage is just now showing up, and even tiny heads that were only one joint (2 inches) above ground are toast."

But, it's unlikely the full extent of the freeze damage is as severe as the Easter weekend freeze of 2007, which leveled the wheat crop in parts of Kansas and Oklahoma.

"But, it is still a very significant level of damage," says Marketing Talk member rrustydawg. "The other factor that isn't really pointed out is that the higher damage areas are the early-maturing varieties in the test plots and Jagger is the number-one variety planted in Oklahoma. It is very early, so the bulk of Oklahoma wheat will fall in the higher damage category."

The hard red winter wheat crop is reaching out of dormancy in the Plains in a time of great variability in conditions.

If you've got wheat that has been nipped beyond reparation by freezing temperatures, you have some options to get use from those acres. The quickest way to get some return is by grazing.

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