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U.S. Wheat Faces Damage Threat as Plains See Another Freeze

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April 19 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. winter wheat crops developing in the Great Plains are at risk from another round of freezing temperatures today after the region was hit by cold weather earlier this month.

In Kansas, the biggest wheat-growing state, temperatures were as low as 25 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 4 degrees Celsius) in Liberal and Dodge City as of 3:52 a.m. local time, according to the National Weather Service. In Hereford, Texas, in the panhandle southwest of Amarillo, it was 23 degrees Fahrenheit. Areas of Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico are under a hard freeze warning until at least 9 a.m., in which temperatures will be low enough to kill or harm crops, the weather service said.

“Sub-freezing temperatures tonight and into tomorrow morning will damage or kill sensitive and tender vegetation,” the National Weather Service said.

Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas accounted for 28 percent of total U.S. wheat production last year, and are the country’s top growers of the hard, red winter variety used primarily to make bread, U.S. Department of Agriculture data show. Some areas were damaged by freezes earlier this month, including as much as 80 percent of wheat in southwest Oklahoma, according to Oklahoma State University agronomist Jeff Edwards.

Wheat futures on the Kansas City Board of Trade were down 0.6 percent to $7.4475 a bushel as of 4:26 a.m. On the Chicago Board of Trade, futures lost 0.6 percent to $7.025 a bushel.

Sixty-eight percent of Oklahoma’s winter wheat crop had entered the heading phase as of April 14, a stage of plant development when the grain emerges from the stem, according to USDA data. Crops during this phase can be vulnerable to freeze. Forty-nine percent of Texas wheat crops were heading, while further north only 17 percent of crops in Kansas and none in Colorado had entered this phase.

To contact the reporter on this story: Whitney McFerron in London at wmcferron1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Claudia Carpenter at ccarpenter2@bloomberg.net.

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