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‘We Lost the Western Kansas Wheat Crop This Weekend’

Blizzard conditions and heavy snow swept western Kansas, including 14 to 20 inches in Colby in the northwestern quadrant of the No. 1 winter wheat state in the nation, said the Weather Channel. “We lost the western Kansas wheat crop this weekend. Just terrible,” tweeted Justin Gilpin, chief executive of the grower-funded Kansas Wheat Commission.

The snow and freezing weather struck a winter wheat crop that was developing faster than usual, thanks to a mild winter. As a result, the crop was more vulnerable to spring snowfalls and frost. “Generally, temps below 32°F. for a minimum of about two hours will cause damage to the crop,” says the Kansas Wheat Commission. “Freeze injury during heading and flowering stages can cause severe yield consequences.” A quarter of the wheat crop was headed as of April 23, compared with the five-year average of 17%.

“Most of @KansasWheat country shut down and no power. Devastating conditions,” Gilpin tweeted on Sunday afternoon. Some comments on Twitter were more hopeful: “Don’t give up yet,” said one, and, “Much-needed moisture but wheat will be flat on the ground when the snow melts.”

Kansas grew 1 of every 5 bushels of U.S. wheat last year, 467 million of the 2.31 billion bushels nationwide. Its farmers specialize in winter wheat, which is planted in the fall, goes dormant during the winter, and sprouts again in the spring. Winter wheat accounts for two thirds, or more, of the U.S. crop each year.

Nearly 90 crop scouts, an amalgam of grain traders, government officials, reporters, millers and a few growers, are to begin a three-day tour of the Kansas winter wheat crop today. “We will adjust on the fly if needed. Too many people flying in from around the world to postpone,” said Dave Green of the Wheat Quality Council, which sponsors the tour. The annual crop tour examines crop conditions, including frost and disease damage, to estimate the likely harvest. Its route begins in Manhattan in eastern Kansas, heads west to Colby, south to Wichita, and then returns to Manhattan.

The USDA will make its first estimate of the winter wheat crop on May 10. At its annual Ag Outlook in late February, the department projected wheat production would fall 20% this year because of low market prices and a sharp reduction in wheat sowings. Growers told USDA in March that they would plant the smallest amount of wheat land, 46.1 million acres, since records began in 1919.

The National Weather Service said Winter Storm Ursa was moving from eastern Colorado across the central and northern Plains toward the Great Lakes. From eastern Colorado through western Kansas into central Nebraska, “accumulations of at least 6 inches are expected with some locales tallying up a foot or more of snowfall.”

From the wheat tour: Snowy Fields Make for ‘Difficult’ First Day of Kansas Wheat Tour.

FERN’s Ag Insider. Produced by FERN
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