Crop conditions around Kansas vary as the weather turns warmer and the delicate growing season for winter wheat is underway. Freeze damage and drought are a major concern for many areas of the state. The crop is battling ranging temperatures and lack of moisture.
Guorong Zhang, wheat breeder at the K-State Agricultural Research Center at Hays, said about 1/3 of fields do not have a very good stand, with many showing drought stress. Zhang reported that while a few varieties have shown signs of winterkill, it is only a small percentage.
“If we get rain, the wheat will be okay,” said Zhang.
Farmers from across the state are calling for rain to help the wheat crop. While freezing temperatures may damage some wheat, it is a minimal concern compared to the crop’s need for water.
Gary Millershaski, farmer from Lakin, reported that his wheat is 2-3 weeks behind with 95 percent of his dryland wheat not yet jointed. A couple inches of snow Monday provided about 20 hundredths of moisture bringing his total moisture since Oct. 1 to 2 inches. While Millershaski has had temperatures in the low 20s, his main worry is lack of rain.
“Drought has me more concerned,” said Millershaski.
Rich Randall, Scott County farmer, agrees that drought is still his biggest problem. His wheat is two weeks behind in development, including his irrigated acres.
“All we need is a good rain,” Randall said.
Mike Jordan in Mitchell County has also experienced temperatures in the low 20s and is seeing growing dead patches in some of his fields.
“Some fields are very bad; this freeze to fragile wheat isn’t going to help,” he said.
From Salina, Justin Knopf’s best wheat is one-half to one inch above the soil surface. After receiving some moisture the past week, his fields are still dry.
“Wheat conditions remain highly variable in this area. Some fields are beginning to be released from crop insurance due to winterkill,” said Knopf. “Many others have claims still pending but are not finalized or released. Other acres look okay, but dry and stressed from temperature variability.”
Zhang reminded growers that wheat is a hardy crop and is tough enough to withstand some of these challenges. He said with rain, the wheat crop will be profitable.
Topsoil moisture supplies as of April 13 rated 27 percent very short, 42 percent short, 31 percent adequate and 0 percent surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies show similar numbers.
Winter wheat condition has been rated 10 percent very poor, 20 percent poor, 44 percent fair, 25 percent good and 1 percent excellent. Winter wheat jointed was 31 percent compared to 33 percent last year, but behind the 47 percent average.