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PrattTribune - Pratt, KS
  • Hot temperatures hit at wrong time for wheat

  • Impact won't be known until grain is in the bin.
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  • In an average year, farmers want hot, dry, windy weather to ripen the wheat crop for harvest.
    But this year has been far from average with three freeze events late in the season, snow in May along with a couple of days reaching 100 degrees.
    The temperatures did get back into a normal range of 70 to 80 degrees and the area received some good moisture. That combination provided good filling conditions for the wheat.
    Then the temperature went up into the 90s and even hit 100 again and it did it at a time that would negatively impact wheat development. High wind has added to problem.
    When the wheat is in the final stages of ripening, the combination of high temperature and wind will cause the wheat to ripen too fast, said Pratt County Extension Agent Mark Ploger.
    When wheat ripens too fast, the grain doesn't have time to fill properly and the kernels will shrivel and lose weight causing a loss in bushels per acre.
    When wheat gets close to maturity it needs less and less moisture. But while the kernels are filling, moisture is critical. The higher the temperature, the faster the plant uses available moisture.
    With the recent rains, it seemed like the plants would have ample moisture to fill the kernels. But, after two years of drought, the moisture was quickly absorbed and when the temperature went up and the wind started to blow, the soil couldn't provide enough moisture to adequately fill the head.
    The extent of the damage won't be known until the crop is harvested.
    While the heat and wind will impact development negatively, it will have a positive impact on wheat protein content.
    When wheat is under this kind of stress it will draw more nutrients from the ground to compensate. The process produces more protein in the kernels so while the bushel numbers will be down the protein content of the wheat that is harvested will be good.
    The wheat is in the process of ripening and making the yearly change from green fields to the various shades of brown that indicate the wheat is ready for harvest.
    Although harvest was much earlier than normal last year, the crop is ripening at about the average time this year.
    In 2012, high temperatures and low precipitation caused very early ripening and harvest started about three weeks earlier then average.
    This year is just the opposite. The temperature and wind have delayed development to a point that harvest probably won't start until some time between June 20 and June 25, Ploger said.
    While the wheat in this area got rain, southwest Kansas get very little and is still feeling the effect of the ongoing drought. In some places when the late season freeze hit it killed the wheat. Some farmers just bailed what they had and took the land out of production.
    Page 2 of 2 - One element that hasn't hit the farmers so far has been severe hail. A few spots had hail that knocked out from five percent to 20 percent of the crop but the area hasn't had any hailstorms that wiped out a wheat field, Ploger said.
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