Low temperatures spell trouble for winter wheat

LAKIN, Kan. (KSNW) – The extreme cold has been frustrating for many, but for some farmers, it’s a disaster.

“It’s gotten so cold that the ground is actually freezing,” said Lakin farmer Kyler Millershaski.

On his western Kansas fields, he’s seeing warning signs of winter kill.

“The ground is actually shrinking, so you’ve got these cracks going down. The down side is that just causes the ground to dry out more.”

Four months ago, September was a rainy month, and things looked great for Millershaski’s wheat.

“It never rained since we planted it, so in the last three months, we haven’t gotten any measurable moisture. I know some of Kansas saw some snow last week. We didn’t get that. We just got the cold and wind.”

Cold, without a layer of snow to insulate crops.

“The cold weather will actually dry out the top layer of soil, and then the wheat can’t get any water, because that’s what it needs, and then the wheat actually starts to suffocate or choke to death.”

The full extent of the damage won’t be clear until the wheat wakes from its dormancy.

“At that point we’ll make the decision if we want to let the wheat continue to grow and harvest it or if we’re better off cutting our losses, terminating the wheat, and following it up with a row crop like corn or milo.”

It’s a decision he won’t make lightly.

“It kind of makes you sick to your stomach watching all your hard work, I don’t want to say go down the drain, but go south.”

He takes pride in feeding people but says he might need to cut his losses to stay in business.

“I guess it’s just one of those years we’re going to have to figure out how to lose the least amount of money.”

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