by Trevor Hands

Wheat beginning to head out emerges as snow begins to melt following Winter Storm "Ursa".  Photo by Trevor Hands.
March 23, 2017 was supposed to be the next "30 year blizzard".  After all, we had the "storm of the century," as the locals would call it, as Western Kansas got around 25 inches of snow over the course of three days.  Curiously, we had another late storm 30 years later in 1987 that ALSO fell on March 23rd.  
This year, 30 years later, that date came and went.  However, just as we thought winter was behind us, Mother Nature had one final winter outburst to send us with much of the Garden City Co-op territory receiving anywhere from twelve to sixteen inches on up to eighteen inches of snow in far Western Kansas.  Beginning with rain Saturday afternoon, April 29th - temperatures plummeted and the rain turned into snow in the early morning hours on Sunday, April 30th.  The snow continued through most of the day with high winds creating white-out conditions.  All of Western Kansas major highways and roads ended up shutting down, with I-70 shutting down as far East as Salina, due to all the hotels being at their capacity.  Garden City was locked down with no one getting in or out.    
Speculation followed on Monday with local news and social media abuzz with assessments that the 2017 wheat crop was all but lost. The wheat futures market rallied by nearly thirty cents from the news.  But not everyone is in agreement with those predictions.  
Trevor Witt, agronomist and sales manager at the Garden City Co-op concurred that this year's winter wheat crop has had it's share of trials.  "A lot went on over the weekend.  We had sub-freezing temperatures, we had a foot-plus of snow in most of our territory and it wasn't a normal snow.  It was a heavy, heavy wet snow and it's laid most of the crop over," said Witt.  But that's where the similarities with the popular reports end.  "Frankly, it's too early to tell," Witt said.  "There's many factors that will go into determining the significance of the damage...is the wheat just laid over?  Is it kinked?  How bad is it kinked?"  
Ultimately, time is what the wheat crop needs right now.  According to Witt, the crop needs "a week to two weeks to heal up and try to stand up as best as possible" before any real results will be able to be gathered.  Just two days after the storm and Witt is already seeing some of the wheat recovering.  "It's already attempting to stand up in most areas where the snow has melted off."  
In regards to the sub-freezing temperatures we experienced over the weekend, Witt does not believe it is as much of a factor.  "The snow gave us an insulation barrier from the temperatures, but," says Witt, "you can never rule anything out."
Witt, along with the other Garden City Co-op agronomists will be out scouting members' fields over the next couple weeks, monitoring the winter wheat crop.  If you should have any questions in the meanwhile, give the co-op a call at 620-275-6161.