Area wheat crops are looking much better this year than they did this time last year, thanks to what seems like an abundance of rain after the severe droughts of the past two years.
However, local weather forecasters are predicting a cold front will move through the area next week, which has caused some alarm in the agricultural community.
State agriculture officials are predicting this year's wheat harvest to double last year's crop, because of wetter weather this year.
Local agriculture officials say the .51 of an inch of rain that fell Thursday was just what the wheat crop needed.
However, April is typically a wet month and actual rainfall has fallen short of normal rainfall amounts so far this month, according to weather records kept at the Kansas University Weather Service.
NORMALLY, the area receives 3.27 inches of rain for the month of April, but the area so far this month has received only 1.15 inches of moisture.
For the year so far, Lawrence has received 7.57 inches of moisture, compared to about 8.13 inches of moisture usually received for the year to date.
Brian Morray, director of the Douglas County Agriculture Stabilization and Conservation Service, said this morning that Thursday's rain was good for area wheat crops but added that more rain is needed to take the plants to harvest.
Morray also said the rain should help the crops just now because they are in a critical growth stage. The wheat plants currently are about 18 inches tall, he said.
Although the recent rains were beneficial, they seemed to be coming in fairly small amounts, Morray said. Either bigger rains or more frequent rains, such as Thursday's, are needed, he said.
"It was a very timely shower," Morray said. "But we need to keep getting showers like that."
MORRAY refused to speculate on the fate of area wheat, saying that the local weather can change so quickly that the rains could dry up and area plants could starve as soon as next week.
Jack Lindquist, Douglas County agriculture extension agent, also said the wheat is looking better this year than it has in the past two years but added that next week's anticipated cold front could damage the wheat in its critical stage of development.
Forecasters predict overnight lows early next week will dip into the 30s, which Lindquist said is potentially damaging to wheat.
"If it gets below freezing, it will damage the wheat," Lindquist said, explaining that the plants are in the process of developing the head of the plant, which houses the plant's berry. If the temperature dips below freezing, the head could be damaged to the extent that it will not develop a berry for harvest, he said.
BUT STATE officials say the 1990 Kansas wheat crop could be nearly double last year's meager 213.6 million bushel harvest, according to nearly four dozen grain trade veterans who toured state fields this week.
Wheat prospects had been better than last year, but moisture and good growing conditions have boosted the crop the past three months.
The 44 participants in the Wheat Quality Council annual tour met in Wichita Thursday and estimated the crop in a range from 391 million bushels to 476 million bushels. The average of their guesses was 424.5 million.
Last year, the group predicted a 208 million bushel harvest, which was about 6 million bushels low.
The group put the 1990 crop at 464 million bushels and projects 11.6 million of the 12.4 million acres planted by Kansas farmers will actually be harvested, which is a below-average rate of abandonment.
Yield estimates call for 40 bushels per acre.
In 1988, Kansas farmers planted the same number of acres. But drought devastated the crop. The statewide average yield landed at 24 bushels per acre. Only 8.9 million acres were even harvested.