One man's crystal ball: so-so wheat crop, great corn

by Laura Lloyd
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KANSAS CITY — Spring and summer weather in the Midwest is setting up for a “net mediocre” winter wheat crop and a “great” corn crop, said David Salmon, agricultural meteorologist at Weather Derivatives.

Current weather models are suggesting a rapid switch from the frigid winter pattern of late winter to expectations for near-to-above normal early spring conditions in the Great Plains, with temperatures ranging from the 60s in the next few weeks to the 70s by the end of March. During this period, winter wheat will be emerging from dormancy. Forecasts are for good amounts of rain in April and May in Central and Eastern Kansas that should help the new crop develop, Mr. Salmon said.

But what is likely to be coming in western parts of the wheat belt is not necessarily a formula for success. Mr. Salmon said there will be periods of hot temperatures and insufficient moisture, detrimental to winter wheat.

“I don’t talk about winter kill. I talk about spring kill,” he said.

He said the extreme cold of much of the winter in hard red winter wheat growing areas was not likely to have done any serious damage to the dormant wheat.

“What kills wheat in the winter is a pattern of freeze-thaw, then more freeze-thaw,” he said.

He said unirrigated wheat fields from Southwest Kansas through the Texas Panhandle would probably experience yield losses because of excessive heat and insufficient moisture that would lead to dry, cracked soil unfavorable for the development of a good root system.

“From South of Garden City (Kas.) down to Amarillo and Lubbock, there’s going to be some pretty dumpy wheat,” Mr. Salmon said.

He said production in more northern and eastern growing areas was likely to be favorable, but in combination with problems in southern and western areas the overall result will be a so-so winter wheat crop.

In contrast, Mr. Salmon is optimistic about the corn crop. Plentiful rains in April and May, coupled with the extra hardiness of current corn varieties, should lead to a bumper crop, he said.
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