U.S. Winter-Wheat Freeze Tonight Seen Compounding Threat to Crop

Temperatures across the southern Great Plains will drop as low as 14 degrees Fahrenheit (minus-10 Celsius) tonight, compounding the risk of damage to U.S. winter-wheat crops that endured freezing weather last night.

Frigid air is forecast in eastern Colorado tomorrow morning, with temperatures dropping as low as 21 degrees in parts of western Kansas, said Allen Motew, a meteorologist at QT Weather in Chicago. Elkhart, Kansas, in the southwestern part of the state, saw 23 degrees last night, the coldest in the region, he said.

“This morning was not the coldest -- tomorrow will be,” Motew said in a telephone interview.

Wheat futures on the Kansas City Board of Trade rose 0.5 percent to $7.51 a bushel at 10:07 a.m. The price through yesterday gained 2.9 percent this month on speculation that freezing weather and the persistent drought will curb production of hard-red winter varieties grown from South Dakota to Texas.

The freeze last night was mostly in Kansas, where plants haven’t started heading, the stage at which the grain emerges from the stem, Motew said. That will limit damage. Temperatures in southern Oklahoma and Texas stayed mostly above freezing, which prevented the worsening of heading plants.

One percent of Oklahoma wheat was headed as of April 14, U.S. Department of Agriculture data show. About 21 percent of the Texas crop was headed, according to the government. Further freezing is possible in parts of the southern Plains on April 20 and again on April 24 and April 25, Motew said.

“Temperatures will warm up this weekend, then it looks like another freeze,” Motew said. “If they get a warming trend and the plants advance at all, then it freezes, that could damage the crop.”

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