Freeze Event has Producers Concerned About State's Wheat CropMon, 14 Apr 2014 13:01:36 CDT
Meteorologists from the National Weather Service in Norman are predicting freezing temperatures all across Oklahoma tonight. Forecast models show lows of 22 degrees near Boise City to 31 degrees near Idabel.
Dr. Jeff Edwards, Oklahoma State University Extension Wheat Specialist, spoke with Radio Oklahoma Network Farm Director Ron Hays and said the potential for catastrophe is certainly there for wheat farmers, but the reality may or may not be so bad. (Click on the LISTEN BAR at the bottom of this story to hear their conversation.)
"I'm concerned. Normally I don't worry much about these freeze events. Normally the hype exceeds the reality and we'll see what happens. But, if the forecasts are correct, they are certainly a cause for concern."
He says some wheat south of I-40 has been reported with the flag leaf just peeking out of the boot and might be able to handle temperatures near 30 degrees. North of I-40, the wheat is at two nodes and might be able to handle temperatures in the range of 28 degrees for an hour or two.
"If we drop much below that or stay there for very long, it certainly is a cause for concern."
Edwards said something to keep in mind is that the temperature at the soil's surface may be a little higher than the value measured up higher where the Mesonet temperature sensor are located, so the temperatures impact the crop itself might not be as cold as reported.
"Areas of the state that received some rainfall through this last rainfall event, that's probably going to help them out. That moisture there will actually help insulate the crop a little bit and if you've got a nice, thick crop canopy, it does add a little bit of a buffer effect so temperatures might not drop quite as low down in the canopy as they do up above the canopy."
While freezing temperatures are a concern to all wheat producers, Edwards said farmers in areas that have been hardest hit by the drought have even more to be worried about tonight.
"Unfortunately, this freeze event without the insulation provided by the moisture could just really hammer that wheat that is in those really dry soil conditions."
Despite that, Edwards said there is some good news for producers nervously eying the forecasts.
"The one good thing we do have going is that our wheat is a good week and a half behind where it would normally be this time of year. If we were on a normal pattern which would mean that the wheat in southern Oklahoma would be fully headed and flowering by now and wheat in central Oklahoma would just be starting to head out, there's no doubt in my mind that this would be a disaster. So, the wheat being behind schedule this year will help us out."
Freezing temperatures notwithstanding, Edwards said the lack of moisture for much of the crop is the bigger issue, with wheat condition reports declining with each passing week without significant moisture. The compound stresses so far have diminished potential yields, "but there's still potential there to pull off an average crop, if we can get some rain. But Mother Nature is going to have to help us out and she's going to have to get in a hurry about it."
For a comprehesive guide to freeze damage in wheat, click on the PDF file below.
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