Warm weather leads to rapid winter wheat growth

GREAT BEND, Kan. (KSNW) – Some might say the sun and warm weather have been wonderful, but if you ask a Kansas farmer, you might not get the same answer.

“You just don’t want it to go on for too long,” said David Leroy.

According to Leroy, the warm weather is causing winter wheat to break dormancy early. This means the wheat thinks it’s spring, and it’s time to start growing — which makes it more vulnerable to freeze if, or when, the cold weather returns.

“You could actually lose some of the tillers and lose some of the heads of wheat, and obviously get a lower yield come June and July,” Leroy said.

Ag experts said the yield loss could be huge.

“Anywhere from 10 to, even as much as, 90 percent, depending on how severe the cold weather is, how long it lasts, and what stage the wheat was in its growth,” said KSN ag expert John Jenkinson.

According to Jenkinson, if wheat is on irrigated ground, the farmer can use water to help insulate the plant from the cold, but there’s a downside.

“It encourages the wheat to grow even more,” he said.

As for dry land farmers, like Leroy, Jenkinson said: “It’s a case of sit down, put your seat belt on, tighten up the seat belt, and get ready…because there’s nothing you can do about it.”

The National Agriculture Statistics Service released a report today that showed the number of farms in the state has dropped over the last year. The report shows that there were 59,000 farms in Kansas in 2016. That’s down 800 from the previous year. The report also said that there were 100,000 fewer acres used by farmers than in 2015.

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