MANHATTAN, KAS. — Central Kansas wheat appears to have suffered the most severe damage from the Easter weekend freeze based on early observations, the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers (K.A.W.G.) said on Thursday.
Although a few more days of growing still is needed to determine the result of freeze damage to the Kansas wheat crop, accounts from individual growers at a series of meetings across the state are beginning to give better definition to the extent of the damage.
Kansas State University Research and Extension organized 11 meetings across the state from April 17-23 to discuss with growers how to detect freeze damage and options once the amount of damage is known. It was critical that producers contact their crop insurance agents, K.A.W.G. said, "No tearing up of the crop should be done without the approval of the crop insurance company."
After attending a meeting in Hesston, Kas., on Tuesday, K.A.W.G. director Bruce Otte said, "My first and second tillers are gone. So, I will have to see what develops." Paul Penner, vice-president of K.A.W.G. and a wheat grower from Hillsboro, Kas., also in the central part of the state, said, "My evaluation of our wheat fields is we have almost total damage to the main stalks and tillers."
Much of the preliminary freeze information indicates the area of heaviest damage is in central Kansas, the association said. Reports from growers in other parts of the state indicated less severe damage from the freeze, but perhaps more damage from heavy, wet snow the following week.
"My wheat survived the freeze much better than I anticipated," said Randy Fritzemeier, a K.A.W.G. board member and farmer from Stafford, Kas. "I didn’t find any damage to the head of the wheat." But he noted wheat broken at the base from the heavy snow. "This won’t come back up," he said.
Some growers said wheat that had been grazed looked better than wheat that had not been grazed.
Kansas Wheat chief executive officer Dusti Fritz said most reports from the Hesston meeting indicated the primary plant was dead but secondary and tertiary tillers were beginning to emerge under the soil.
"The conclusions drawn are that all of our chance for a crop in this severely damaged area weighs on those newly emerging tillers, and weather will play a vital role through the month of June on whether or not they will survive," she said.
As of April 15, Kansas Agricultural Statistics said 18% of the state’s wheat had received severe freeze damage (0% two weeks prior), 26% moderate damage (1%), 25% light damage (8%) and 31% no damage (91%). The Kansas crop was rated 36% good to excellent (77% two weeks earlier), 37% fair (19%), and 27% poor to very poor (4%). Sixty-five per cent of the crop was in the joint stage, compared with 53% as average for the date.