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Rain Needed for Southern Plains Wheat Crop

Intense drought conditions have encompassed the central southern Plains over the winter, bringing little to no precipitation since mid-October. The next two weeks could bring some precipitation for hopeful wheat farmers.

“Over the winter, the Texas panhandle, much of Oklahoma, and southern Kansas have experienced the longest period of time without rainfall ever recorded,” says David Streit, meteorologist at Commodity Weather Group. “The Amarillo area is the most extreme case where they haven’t seen rainfall in nearly 120 days.”

With extreme dry conditions and no protective snow cover, the wheat crop has seen significant damage with substantial soil moisture loss. According to the USDA, 79% of the winter wheat crop is rated in poor to very poor condition. Topsoil moisture was recorded low to very low on 79% to 93% of acres throughout Kansas and Oklahoma.

“With the cold temperatures the beginning of the year and lack of moisture, the wheat crop has greatly suffered a winter kill event,” says Streit. “It’s going to take a lot of moisture to turn the crop around.”

A Glimmer of Hope

Wheat farmers aren’t at a complete loss just yet, says Dale Mohler, senior meteorologist at Accuweather.

“There’s going to be a pattern change bringing some rain or snow into next week,” says Mohler. “Two storms will be making their way across Texas and into Kansas where they could use it for the start of the growing season when wheat really starts to get going.”

However, there won’t be a major relief for the wheat crop and soil moisture arising from these storms, says Mohler, but it will help for the time being. The next couple weeks of rain will bring some hope for wheat farmers, but most likely not enough for a large-scale change for the crop overall.

“Throughout the next weeks and into March, we’ll see temperatures start to warm up for the Wheat Belt and this is going to cause concerns as the crop is going to want to take off and produce seed” says Streit. “The middle of next month will be interesting for the wheat’s stand population.”

Streit says he’s not optimistic, because the spring outlooks forecast dry to normal precipitation. Without more rainfall into the spring, much of the crop will be at a loss of production.

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