Harvest Public Media
6:20 am
Mon January 6, 2014

Sub-Zero Temperatures Have Farmers Worried About Wheat Crop

A dusting of snow covers a winter wheat crop.
A dusting of snow covers a winter wheat crop.
Credit couleewinds / Flickr--CC

In parts of Kansas, forecasts of biting cold temperatures with lows five or ten degrees below zero has farmers worried about the wheat crop that’s in the ground.

Hard red winter wheat is the most common wheat variety grown in the United States. It’s often used to make bread. Planted in the fall, it lays dormant underground in the winter months. It’s hardy. But bitter cold temperatures for a few consecutive days can lower the temperature of the soil to dangerous levels.

Kansas State Extension agronomist Jim Shroyer says the crop is especially at-risk in fields without snow cover.

“If the soils are dry and it gets really cold it drops those soil temperatures into the single digits and I can pretty much guarantee you there will be some damage. Now, whether it’s widespread or not remains to be seen,” says Shroyer.

Farmers will have to wait weeks to know if their crops were affected.