Arctic blast hits U.S. Midwest, some wheat at risk of winterkill

Chicago | Reuters –– An arctic blast hitting the heart of the U.S. Midwest soft red winter wheat belt this week will put 10 to 15 per cent of the dormant crop at risk of winterkill damage, agricultural meteorologists said Tuesday.

While most of the northern Midwest wheat crop is protected by snow from frigid temperatures there is a strip across the central United States, from northern Missouri to central Illinois, central Indiana and parts of Ohio, that missed the recent snowfall, leaving dormant wheat exposed to winterkill.

On Tuesday, morning lows dipped below 0 F (-18 C) in southern Illinois, southern Indiana and parts of Ohio, big SRW wheat country, with more chilly temperatures on the way, meteorologists said.

“For the next two or three mornings, through Friday, there is going to be threats of 0 to -10 F below readings in those winter wheat areas,” said meteorologist Dan Hicks of Freese-Notis Weather in Iowa.

Unprotected wheat can experience winterkill if temperatures dip below zero for four hours or more, preventing the crop from reaching its full yield potential this summer.

The extended forecast for the six- to 10-day period from the National Weather Service late Monday confirmed a cold bias continuing over the soft red winter wheat belt. The precipitation outlook for the same period looked mostly dry, intensifying drought conditions in the northern Midwest.

“Snow is likely to remain light next week in the Midwest, and some areas could still be threatened by another cold surge,” Commodity Weather Group said in its morning bulletin to customers.

— Christine Stebbins is a Reuters correspondent covering grain markets from Chicago.

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