Bitter cold blamed for winterkill in Wheat Belt
GAITHERSBURG, MD - While extreme cold temperatures gripped most of the central and eastern U.S., crop farmers in the Plains states watched with trepidation as the mercury in the thermometer bottomed out at -30 to -40 degree F in the northern Plains on New Year's Day.
Snow cover was sufficient in the northern Plains and northern Midwest to protect wheat from damage; however, snow cover was very thin in the central and southern Plains and southern Midwest. Without the insulating blanket of snow, widespread winterkill occurred on Monday across southeastern Colorado, much of Kansas, far northern Oklahoma, central Missouri, southern Illinois, and southwestern Indiana.
“Damage occurred in about a quarter of the hard red wheat belt in the central Plains, with about 5% of the soft red wheat belt in the Midwest seeing impacts,” said Don Keeney, Senior Agricultural Meteorologist for Radiant Solutions.
Readings were predicted to moderate throughout the rest of the week in the Plains, which will ease winterkill threats there. However, another cold push in the eastern Midwest late this week may result in some minor damage there to soft red wheat.
“Lows should drop below 0 F in exposed areas of southern Indiana, southern Ohio, and northern Kentucky on Friday morning, resulting in some additional winterkill,” said Keeney. Readings should then moderate a bit this weekend and early next week, which will end winterkill threats.
Aside from wheat concerns, Florida citrus will be looked at later this week. Forecast models indicate a threat for frost possibly Thursday and Friday mornings across a large portion of the citrus belt. Keep in mind, a lot of the citrus crop was impacted this past tropical season in Florida, especially with Hurricane Irma in September.