Time will tell the amount of damage to the local wheat crop after rain runoff laid some wheat down and the area had temperatures at freezing.

One of the latest heavy snowfalls Kansas has ever seen may have a devastating impact on the wheat crop in western Kansas.

Mark Ploger, Pratt County Extension agent, said an early estimate, and he emphasized it was just a guess, put the loss at 40 percent of the wheat in western Kansas. There are real concerns about the damage 16 inches of snow had on the wheat.

Ploger said he had heard some old timers say they had never seen this much snow this late in the year.

But what may be lost in all attention to the over a foot of snow in some places, is the freezing conditions that hit the central part of the state in late April. The temperature in the Pratt area got down to the freezing mark. It's a little too soon to tell what impact the freeze had on the wheat but right now things don't look too bad, Ploger said.

However, it will take some time before the total impact of the freeze will be known.

All in all, April has been a very important weather month for wheat growers in Kansas. Ploger said there has been 10.4 inches of rain in April in the area. Several wheat fields in the Pratt area have had damage from running water because the ground it so saturated, there is no where for it to go but to run off.

Besides the weather impact, wheat rust has hit some areas just when the wheat is heading out and flowering, a very vulnerable time for the wheat plant. Ploger said he would encourage farmers to go ahead and spray to help fight the problem.

Some farmers have chosen not to spray their crops but to take their chances. With low wheat prices, many farmers can't break even so they are reluctant to spend more money on a crop that already doesn't pay to produce it.

The crop damage news from western Kansas had an impact on the market with wheat advancing almost the limit on one day in western Kansas. While that was good, it still didn't get the price high enough for producers to realize a profit from their crop.

The state wide wheat quality council inspection tour is just wrapping up. According to a story from "Kansas Wheat" by Marsha Boswell, director of communications for Kansas Wheat, it was too early to tell the extent of the damage.

Some 70 participants from every aspect of the wheat industry are taking part in the tour the traveled from east to west across the state. At first the wheat looked good with adequate moisture and very little disease. But the further west they traveled they ran into freeze damaged wheat in the center of the state where the wheat was in the boot and early heading stages, according to Kansas Wheat.

As the tour traveled further west it saw signs of several wheat diseases, some nitrogen deficiencies and aphids.

As far as the snow damage goes, only time and some warmer weather will reveal the extent of the damage.

Locally, when the cool weather gives way to warmer temperatures next week, the damage will become more evident, Ploger said.

There is also some local problems with rust. Most farmers have already sprayed for it and have it under control.

The local wheat that went down from rain runoff will probably be flexible enough to stand back up. Warmer, dryer weather will help the downed wheat situation.

Although the wheat started sprouting a little earlier than normal this year, the cooler temperatures have slowed its growth and now its about on track for an average harvest start time depending on what else happens with the weather.

One other element will reduce the wheat harvest this year. Across the state, farmers planted about 20 percent less wheat than the previous year. The reason is simple, they just can't make a profit with the low market price.

Farmers are looking at other crops, even industrial hemp, as an alternative to wheat. Anything that pays better than wheat is getting attention, Ploger said.

In spite of the snow and frost and heavy rain and rust, wheat is still a very tough crop and will work hard to produce a yield.

"Local farmers remain optimistic," Ploger said

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