U.S. winter wheat in south to see warm spell

CHICAGO, Ill. (Reuters) — A warm spell in the United States Plains was expected cause a portion of the region’s hard red winter wheat to break dormancy and lose some of its winter hardiness, but forecasts showed no immediate threat to the crop, meteorologists said.

Temperatures should reach the 21 to 32 C across the Plains wheat belt on Thursday, cooling to the 50s and 60s in the central Plains and the 60s to 70s farther south on Friday and Saturday.

“Eighty-degree temperatures too often would be a bad thing without rain. But we are not expecting to see 80s except for a couple of days,” said Drew Lerner, a meteorologist with World Weather Inc.

Jeff Edwards, an Oklahoma State University extension specialist, wrote in a blog post this week that given the warm weather and prospects for crop development, Oklahoma producers may soon need to remove cattle from wheat pasture or risk losing yield potential.

The southern Plains has been fairly dry for the last 30 to 45 days, a concern because wheat needs moisture as it resumes growth after winter dormancy. However, the region’s crops can tap ample subsoil moisture following a wet autumn, said David Streit, a meteorologist with the Commodity Weather Group.

“It will be hard for us to get dry enough, long enough to really have a negative impact on the crop,” Streit said, adding that showers are expected to increase in March.

A bigger worry might be the dry conditions building in the northern Plains and Canadian Prairies, where farmers will plant spring wheat later this year, the forecasters said.

“It is definitely dry-biased at the moment,” Lerner said, “and with El Nino expected to linger for several more weeks, the odds are fairly good that region will stay dry and warmer than normal.”

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