Kansas wheat tour to assess crop damage following hard freezes

Nearly 80 farmers and other agricultural experts plan to fan out across Kansas this week for the annual wheat quality tour amid mounting worries about crop damage from several hard freezes this spring.

The tour leaves Monday from Manhattan, with participants following six different routes across the state to make more than 600 crop evaluations. The tour ends Thursday at the Kansas City Board of Trade with the group's announcement of its forecast for the 2013 crop.

Hosted by the Wheat Quality Council, the event each year draws farmers, milling and baking companies, governmental agencies, retailers and foreign buyers to Kansas.

This year's tour will offer the first close-up look at the impact from April freezes interspersed with warm temperatures. Wheat is particularly vulnerable to freeze damage when it emerges from winter dormancy and begins to actively grow.

“As it progresses maturity-wise, it becomes more vulnerable,” said Jim Shroyer, a wheat specialist at Kansas State University.

Reports are already coming in from the southwest and west-central parts of the state about heavy freeze damage from the April 9-10 freeze, but it remains unclear how much damage the more recent freezes last week have inflicted on the crop. Freeze damage becomes more apparent when warm temperatures return.

Temperatures dipped into the 20s last week across Ellsworth, Great Bend, Pratt and other parts of Kansas.

“If there is any damage there, that is where I would anticipate it,” Shroyer said.

This year's crop is 10 days behind normal development in a season battered by not only recent freezes but ongoing drought.

Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service reported in its weekly snapshot last week that the state's wheat crop is rated as 37 percent poor to very poor, 33 percent fair and 30 percent good to excellent.