Salina Unseasonably warm temperatures this week could fool plants into thinking it's spring and start sprouting early, which could pose problems when normal winter conditions return to Kansas, according to the state climatologist.
The Salina Journal reported Wednesday the thermometer could hit near 80 in Salina on Thursday on the heels of a 65-degree day Wednesday. And while a few days of warm temperatures aren't as much of a concern as some sharply cold nights, state climatologist Mary Knapp said a prolonged warm period could bring some plants and crops out of the ground too soon.
Without frosty nights to remind plants that it's still winter, some are "going to have more impetus to break dormancy and get going," she said. "We're talking about four or five days of temperatures above freezing. That's what will spark things to move along."
This week's warmth follows record-breaking low temperatures last week that went as low as 15 below zero. After a respite from the cold this week, winter-like temperatures are expected to return next week.
The typical last killing frost in Kansas isn't until the first week of April, said Jason Graves, the district Extension horticulturist in Salina.
Graves said he isn't too worried about an impact on crops unless there are multiple warm days. Salina temperatures are expected to be in the low- to mid-50s over the weekend.
"Most plants have gotten close to completing the dormant periods," Graves said. "That's where we can run into trouble, to where it doesn't take much to wake them up."
Wheat that develops early can become vulnerable to a late freeze and lose yield potential by destroying the crop's ability to make grain, he said.
"Our hope is to keep those plants in the dormant stage for a while longer," Graves said. "With some of the trees and plants that come out early, (warm temperatures) can fool them."
Billy Gans, who grows wheat near Bennington and New Cambria, said he's not fretting too much yet over his crop.
"If it comes out of dormancy and it gets cold, it'll go back," Gans said. "After last week, we need some warm temperatures."