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Wheat crop dodges freeze

On Tuesday morning, many Arkansas wheat farmers and county Extension agents were relieved to discover Monday night didn’t get as cold as weather forecasters had predicted.

Many of them may have remembered how record cold at Easter 2007 devastated wheat and early-planted corn, said Jason Kelley, Arkansas Extension wheat and feed grains specialist. Kelley received a lot of phone calls from nervous farmers and county agents Monday, but many of them were thankful Tuesday morning.

“I think overall, we’ve dodged a bullet,” Kelley said. “It didn’t get as cold as forecasters said, so initially I’m very optimistic. We were probably 5 degrees or more above the forecast lows for many areas.

“Over in the Arkansas River Valley, they were forecasting low temperatures in the mid-20s. The coldest I found was 29 degrees in Logan County for an hour.”

Kelley said the situation was also helped by the fact the state’s 500,000-acre wheat crop is a week to 10 days later in maturity than it was in 2007 when the late freeze caused major damage.

“The closer the crop is to heading, the more prone it is to freeze damage. It’s most sensitive stage is when it’s heading to flowering, and we were in that stage in 2007.”

The 2007 freeze also damaged early corn plantings.

“We do have corn up and growing now, but not nearly as much as we did in 2007. Wet and cool weather has delayed corn planting this year. Much like the wheat, initially it appears that the corn suffered little to no damage last night. Back in 2007, we had three nights of freezing temperatures, so, we should be in pretty good shape.”

Kelley said it has been cool all spring and he feels like “this is the last hoorah for winter, and now we can move on into spring.”

TAGS: Wheat
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