This Week’s Polar Vortex Could Destroy Large Portion Of U.S. Winter Wheat Crop


An ag meteorologist says this week’s extreme cold snap could cause irreversible damage to the nation’s winter wheat crop.

Matt Makens with CattleFax tells Brownfield wheat in parts of the Central and Western Plains don’t have a protective layer of snow to defend against sub-zero temperatures. “You’re allowing whatever wheat has come up already to be exposed to the dangerous cold. This is not temporary. This is not a three-hour flash freeze. This is a multi-day hard freeze that is going to last all the way into Christmas weekend.”

He says some of the crop could die, but that depends on the plant’s health. “This maybe way too much for a lot of those plants to handle. They’re already drought stressed with poor emergence. This is going to be the next little bad nugget for them.”

Commodity Weather Group says 20 percent of the crop is susceptible to winter kill this week, including 45 percent of the hard winter wheat crop.

And, Makens says, the long-term forecast is not promising with additional cold snaps predicted through March. “As these systems come through, we’re going to increase the amount of frozen ground – what that frost layer is. Any moisture that we pick up along the way is just going to be runoff because the ground is going to be frozen.”

The National Weather Service is predicting wind chills will drop to almost -60 degrees Fahrenheit in parts of the Central Plains and Corn Belt with 40 miles per hour winds. NWS says 6-8 inches of snow is likely, too.