Hours long springtime freeze causes concern for Kansas wheat crops

Published: Apr. 13, 2020 at 3:11 PM CDT
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Below freezing temperatures across Kansas Sunday night cause concern for Kansas wheat farmers. If the well-below normal temperatures last long enough, they can cause irreversible damage to wheat crops.

Farmers in northwest Kansas, which saw the lowest temperatures Sunday night, say it could take awhile to assess the damage caused by the spring-time freeze.

While an early springtime freeze is not uncommon for Kansas, Plainville farmer Matt McCune points out that hours of freezing temperatures can cause heavy damage.

"It's not that the freeze was so late, it was how cold it got for how long," McCune says of what much of the state experienced Sunday night.

K-State agronomist Lucas Haag says some locations in western Kansas dipped below 24 degrees for as long as 10 hours. He says parts of central Kansas experienced below-freezing temperatures for as long as 13 hours.

Video from Claflin, in Barton County, shows ice inside the wheat's stem.

McCune and Haag say the more more mature a wheat crop is, the more damage freezing temperatures can cause. For now, it's too early to tell the extent of damage the sustained freeze caused Sunday night.

"It's going to take seven to 14 days before we truly get a feel for what's happened," McCune says of the damage assessment form Sunday night's freeze. "...It's going to be difficult to assess that."

Below-average temperatures forecast for this week could prolong that. McCune and Haag say damage could mean lower yields and less profit during this year's harvest.

The Kansas wheat harvest typically starts in early to mid June.