Snow cover has been sufficient in northern parts of the U.S. growing area but thinner in the south, where temps have still dipped dangerously low.
Winter wheat grower John Ernst knows his crop could have some winterkill issues due to the recent cold snap.
But he also knows there isn’t much he can do about it until the crop breaks dormancy this spring.
“We have very little snow cover in southern Illinois,” said Ernst, president of the Illinois Wheat Association. “So, the crop pretty well took the brunt of the bad weather (with wind chills well below zero for multiple days).”
Don Keeney, senior ag meteorologist with Radiant Solutions, believes most possible winterkill issues in recent weeks targeted the central Plains and a small portion of the soft red winter wheat belt, including parts of southern Illinois.
Snow cover was sufficient in the northern Plains and the northern Midwest to protect wheat from damaging temperatures between 30 and 40 degrees below zero, according to the meteorologist.
However, snow cover was thin in the central and southern Plains and southern Midwest.
“Damage occurred in about a quarter of the hard red wheat belt in the central Plains, with about 5 percent of the soft red wheat belt in the Midwest seeing impacts,” Keeney said.
About all farmers can do is wait for spring and assess whether the crop needs an early shot of nitrogen or if the field should be torn up and replanted at that time.
“It seems we get a poor weather event on the wheat crop every year, and usually it makes it through,” Ernst said.
“At this point, it’s too early to tell how much damage could have been done (from winterkill),” he continued. “Once it comes out of dormancy, we can assess it.”
A little more than half the wheat crop (56 percent) was rated good to excellent in Illinois as of Jan. 2, while the rest (44 percent) was rated fair to very poor.
Along with the wheat concerns, Florida citrus will be assessed in this and coming weeks after a threat of frost and even light snowfall swept through that state this week