Snow welcomed but more needed to end drought

Reuters / A heavy winter snowstorm that swept across the U.S. midsection was a welcomed event for U.S. winter wheat farmers worried that their drought-stricken fields were too parched to produce a healthy crop this year.

Nearly a foot or more of snow fell across key growing areas in Oklahoma and Kansas Feb. 21.

“I feel a lot better this morning,” said Kansas wheat farmer Scott Van Allen, who has about 2,300 acres planted to winter wheat in south-central Kansas. “It snowed all night on us. I was getting very concerned with the lack of moisture we’ve had.”

“Most of the snow has been in Kansas and into Missouri so far,” said Brian Fuchs, a climatologist with the University of Nebraska Drought Mitigation Center. “With the weather and the snow we’re really looking at a good shot of moisture.”

Chicago Board of Trade wheat futures fell more than two per cent to their lowest level in nearly eight months Feb. 21 morning due to the beneficial nature of the storms for the wheat crop in the U.S. Plains.

Still, Fuchs and wheat agronomy experts said that the ongoing drought has been so pervasive that soil moisture deficits will not be replenished without several large storm systems.

“This is not going to put a big dent in the drought,” said Fuchs. “The moisture is welcomed, but is it a drought buster? No it is not. We need several more storms like this to really start turning the tide.”

Kansas State University wheat agronomist Jim Shroyer agreed. A foot of snow translates to only about an inch of water for the soil, he said.

“To fill the profile you would need 10 feet of snow,” said Shroyer.

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