Crops are showing signs of "quite a bit of damage" caused by the freezing temperatures over the Easter weekend.
Immediately after the frosty Easter weekend Crop Quests's Farrell Allison was noncommittal about how badly the winter wheat crop in Kiowa County had been damaged. A dozen days later, he indicated the yield had definitely been hurt, and to a degree he would have expected from temperatures having dipped a good 10 degrees below freezing.
"We've got quite a bit of damage," Allison responded last Friday when asked if the crop's setback could be termed light, moderate or severe. "It's very easy to find dead heads in most fields. We've got stem damage also."
Most of it is probably moderate, but it is severe in some places. Of course, some fields are showing little sign of being hurt. It's very much on a field by field basis.
Asked if the eight inches of heavy, wet snow that fell five days later on Friday, April 13 had contributed significantly to the breaking of stems, Allison was unsure.
"It's hard to say," he replied. "There's probably more stem breakage because of that heavy snow, but stems were already weakened by the freeze, so it s probably a combination."
"The thing is, we had a week and a half of freezing temperatures, on the heels of that warm, wet weather in late March that got things ahead of schedule. So it's not surprising the crop's been hurt."
Allison was less definite when asked how much he estimated the yield on the 2007 wheat harvest had been cut back by recent weather woes.
"Can't say yet because there are some young tillers that haven't yet produced a head," he commented. "If we have some cool, mild weather the next month they could come on and produce some grain, but that won't happen if it turns off hot and dry."
As for whether he thought any of the wheat was hurt badly enough to be torn up in coming days in favor of row crop, Allison said, "I don't think any of the dry land will. Irrigated? There may be some."
The developing wheat crop wasn't the only casualty of the frigid weather two weeks ago, as at least half of the first cutting alfalfa crop was also eliminated, according to Allison.
"The first cutting's going to be delayed, so the fifth cutting will be awfully late, and may not be much," he said.
With county farms receiving between five and seven inches over the past month, and more forecast for this week, planting of this year's corn crop continues to be put on hold.
"That's starting to get to be a little bit of a problem now," Allison said. "If we stay wet over the next week guys are really going to have to push hard to get it in. But we've still got some time right now."
Allison acknowledged that if the current monsoon conditions continue into the end of April, planters might have to turn to corn varieties with a shorter growing season.
As discouraging as recent weather trends have been, local farmers can perhaps find a bit of solace in the fact their woes are widespread across the state, with Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service reports of April 16 indicating some degree of damage to 70 percent of the state's wheat fields. The most significant damage has appeared to be in a corridor running from north central to south-central Kansas. Hardest hit have been wheat growers around Salina and McPherson.
Yield losses statewide will be given greater definition in a couple of weeks when the Statistics Service conducts a survey around May 1. The results of that research can then be used to assist the state in seeking emergency disaster declarations for affected counties.
In the midst of so many rain clouds as of late, Allison noted a significant silver lining to be found in the abundant precipitation that pushed crops to an ahead-of-schedule development that left them vulnerable to the chilly weekend of April 7.
"Last spring was so dry that all this rainfall the last several months is welcome," he said. "We're getting our subsoil built back up, our aquifer is getting recharged, tree belts are getting revitalized and pastures are going to actually have some grass. So it isn't all bad news. We're starting to play catch up for the last several dry years."