By Danielle Gadberry / Staff Writer

Weather affects more than the joints of those who are older. The weather has a big impact on crops grown in Kansas. The recent sub-zero temperatures could be extremely hazardous to our crops.

Kent McKinnis, an Agronomy Instructor/Crops & Soils Specialist at Hutchinson Community College, says that he believes cold crops, winter wheat and canola, will be just fine this year. He said that if these sub-freezing conditions continued and were a yearly problem, then we’d have to rethink what we plant in the ground when we plant everything.

Winter wheat is seeded in late August or early September into a shallow seedbed to allow the plant to access enough water to germinate quickly and grow for four to five weeks. The next four to eight weeks – October to November – allow the plant to vernalize (giving the plant the signal to flower next spring) and acclimate to the cold (harden off for the winter). Ideally, this plant would be three to four leaves, have a tiller or two with developed crown tissue, and would be ready to achieve winter wheat’s maximum yield potential next spring.

Kent said how snow is really good for wheat. When there is snow on top of the wheat, it provides a “blanket/barrier” so the wheat can survive. He also states that moist soil is better than dry soil in the winter. Soil moisture is important for the transfer of heat energy in the soil.

During the growing season, the soil temperature near the surface is warmer than at the lower depths, and the net movement of energy is from the surface to the lower depths. Moist soil will conduct greater energy downward than dry soil because much of the pore space between particles is occupied by air and air is a very poor conductor of energy.

Simon Gadberry, a farmer in the Little River area and HutchCC graduate, says that “The wheat will be fine, it’s a very tough crop and is made for cold weather. It goes dormant in the winter, but if it gets cold again in a month or two, it will kill the wheat.”

These extreme weather conditions make the farming process take much longer. It makes the work a lot harder, and sometimes even stops everything until it clears up. 

Kent said that there are not many ways farmers can protect their crops, other than study average weather predictions from the past five to 10 years.

“All we know is that every year is going to be different, this year may be wetter, maybe drier, maybe warmer, maybe colder, etc.”

 Farmers have to take all of this into consideration for depth, the timing for planting, seed size, and finding a seed treatment, based on seed quality, crop rotation, and weather conditions, determine whether you are at high risk for seedling disease development.

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