Wichita Light snow this week that blanketed parts of Kansas brought welcomed moisture to some of the state's winter wheat, but the crop needs far more if farmers are to have a decent 2003 harvest, experts say.
"I don't think we ought to throw the crop away," said Jim Shroyer, a K-State Extension wheat specialist. "Things could get better -- or things could continue the way they are going, which is not good."
In its February crop update, the Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service said 22 percent of the winter wheat condition was in poor to very poor condition. About 45 percent was listed as fair, 29 percent good and 4 percent excellent.
Most wheat is holding its own so far, but significant amounts of moisture will be needed soon for proper root development, the agency said.
About 81 percent of the crop has suffered no freeze damage, and 78 percent has no wind damage, KASS said.
The 2003 wheat crop still can recover fully, or as near to it as possible, if the state gets more moisture in those parts that are in severe drought, Shroyer said.
Wednesday and Thursday's snow didn't hurt, he said.
"Any moisture we get in almost any form will be beneficial," Shroyer said.
Statewide, only 23 percent of the state has adequate topsoil moisture, KASS said.
The wheat crop can be seriously harmed by frequent alternate periods of warming and cooling during the season. Warmth causes the plant to use more moisture, drying out the soil and making it more vulnerable to rapid drops in temperature, Shroyer said.
In a separate report, KASS also released the breakdown of the wheat varieties planted for 2003. For the first time, the hard white wheat Trego has made the top 10 list of varieties planted in the state.
About 1.8 percent of wheat acres statewide are planted in Trego, with about 2.7 percent of the state's acreage planted in hard white varieties.
The majority of the white wheat is being grown in the western third of the state. Trego accounts for nearly 10 percent of the wheat grown in west-central Kansas this year, and for 7.5 percent of the planted wheat in northeast Kansas, KASS reported.
Jagger remains the most popular variety seeded for the 2003 crop, accounting for 45.2 percent of the state's wheat.