Wichita Farmers now have more than just the lingering drought to fear as their winter wheat fields begin greening up across Kansas.
U.S. Department of Agriculture pathologist Bob Bowden said Wednesday that stripe rust has survived the winter in Texas, and he puts the risk for Kansas having an infestation as moderately high.
An epidemic of stripe rust last year Â the first such outbreak since 1918 Â cut yields on infected winter wheat fields from 25 to 50 percent in Kansas, he said.
"It already has a start in Texas," Bowden said. "The history is of spores moving from the southern plains to the central plains in the wind. The question is when we will get them."
All it takes is a heavy dew for a few hours for the spores to flourish, even in the current dry conditions now plaguing the crop.
If there is a lot of movement of spores two weeks from now, Kansas farmers could be making some tough choices about whether to spend the money spraying, Bowden said.
"Putting a rust treatment on a crop that doesn't look very good is a tough decision," he said.
Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service reported this week that drought has so stressed the winter wheat crop that nearly half of it was ranked in poor to very poor condition.
In its weekly crop weather report, the agency said 17 percent of the crop was in very poor shape and 27 percent was in poor condition. Another 33 percent was ranked as fair. Just 21 percent was in good condition, and 2 percent was reported as excellent.
The state will get a better idea of how the crop is doing statewide during the annual winter wheat tour, scheduled April 29 through May 2. Last year, dire predictions for a poor harvest evaporated with late spring rains.