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Wheat winterkill worries rise as temps crash

Jeff Caldwell 01/06/2014 @ 9:04am Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

While the bone-chilling temperatures are making life tough for about every living thing in the nation's central third, it's doing worse than that to the winter wheat crop in parts of the Plains.

Monday's subzero temps -- reaching as low as -23 degrees Fahrenheit in parts of eastern Colorado -- are taking a major toll on the wheat crop that's not blanketed with sufficient snow cover to insulate it from winterkill damage, says MDA Weather Services senior ag meteorologist Don Keeney.

"Temperatures have turned very cold across much of the Plains and Midwest, and some winterkill is occurring this morning across eastern Colorado, western and north-central Kansas, and much of Nebraska as snow cover remains rather thin there," he said Monday morning. "This is affecting about a third of the Plains wheat belt, with significant damage likely occurring in about 10% of the belt, mainly in Nebraska and eastern Colorado."

Move farther east and fortunately for the wheat crop, there's more snow cover. But temperatures in parts of the Plains and points east are expected to remain at damaging levels through tomorrow, opening the door to more potential winterkill damage there, too.

"Snow cover is protecting wheat across much of the Plains, although some spotty winterkill is possible Tuesday morning across southeastern Indiana, southwestern Ohio, and northern Kentucky as snow there is a bit limited."

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