Extreme Freeze Likely Damaging US Winter Wheat Crop

16 February 2021

Record low temperatures are likely damaging the dormant US winter wheat crop, as current soil conditions increase the risk to the plants. Temperatures on Feb. 15 and 16 fell as low as minus 15-20 degrees Celsius across most of Texas, and were even lower in Oklahoma and Kansas, the three main producing states

Dryer than normal soil conditions, as shown via the Gro Drought Index, are increasing the risk to the plants, since soil moisture typically slows cooling. The wheat crop’s growing point is still below ground at this time of the year so soil temperatures are more critical than air or land surface temperatures. 

Heavy snowfall accompanying the bitter cold can help mitigate damage to the crop, as even a few inches of snow can insulate soil and protect the wheat. (View snow depths for HRW growing areas here.) But given the extensive amount of time the crop has already been exposed to extremely low temperatures, some damage to the plants seems likely. 

The full extent of the damage won’t be known until the crop breaks dormancy in 4-6 weeks, when Gro users should follow Gro’s US Hard Red Winter Wheat Yield Model to get a look at how the crop is developing. NDVI, a key input to Gro's yield model that measures greenness, will be able to monitor how dry soil and winterkill impact plant growth

Problems besetting the US crop add to concerns about global wheat supplies, which are currently tight. If dry weather conditions continue this spring when crops emerge in both the US and Russia it will give wheat prices a bullish boost. 

You can watch a recording of Gro’s Feb. 11 webinar, “Will Trade Restrictions and Crop Prospects Curtail Wheat Supplies?” 

This insight was powered by the Gro platform, which enables better and faster decisions about factors affecting the entire global agricultural ecosystem. Gro organizes over 40,000 datasets from sources around the world into a unified ontology, which allows users to derive valuable insights such as this one. You can explore the data available on Gro with a free account, or please get in touch if you would like to learn more about a specific crop, region, or business issue.

 

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