By TIM HORAN
While the wheat crop is soaking up the rain in Dickinson County, it could be for naught if the temperature continues to fall below freezing.
Mary Knapp, climatologist with Kansas State University’s Department of Agronomy, said damage to wheat by freezing conditions depends on how cold it is and how long it lasts.
“We have 90 percent chance of sleet and snow tonight but the temperature will get down to 30,” she said of Monday. “That is less likely to be damaging as say, last week, when the temperatures were down into the mid 20s for several hours, especially the further west that you went.”
She said it often freezes in April in this area.
“It is not common but it is not unusual and it is by no means the latest that we have had freezing temperatures,” she said. “We have had freezing temperatures as late as May. Actually, May 29 we have gotten down to freezing in Abilene as well.
“We are in one of our coldest Aprils on record, depending on where you are at,” she said. “It is between the fifth coldest and the coldest April. It is in the top five for us (Manhattan and Abilene) but as you go further west, it is at the top of the rank, the coldest.
“But we are not over with April yet,” she said. “A week of warm weather could shift where it falls in our scale but we are definitely on the colder end of our scale.”
She said the cold could not only damage wheat but could have an effect on other crops. She said that farmers trying to get row crops planted are also late because of the weather and that could mean trouble for the corn this summer.
“What we are running into now, typically, producers like to get their row crops planted, particularly corn,” she said. “The middle of April is the average planting day for the corn crop and it is not uncommon to have the corn already up and maybe three or four leaves out of the ground. A lot of people haven’t gotten it in and if they did get it in, I have yet to see corn up.
“The concern with that is later, as the plant matures, does it get caught in the typical warm weather that we get in the summer?” Knapp said. “If you can get planted earlier, it can get through its vulnerable silking stage before the weather gets really hot.”
Wednesday’s forecast is not as cool. The sun is expected to shine with highs around 55 degrees. The low again on Wednesday night is around 30 degrees.