The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

April 9, 2013

Cold snap is a threat to area wheat, canola crops

Kevin Hassler, Associate Editor
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Roger Don Gribble was anxiously watching his computer screen Tuesday afternoon as a cold front moved into the area.

That cold front, and the freezing temperatures it is bringing, has Gribble, northwest area agronomist for Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, worried about the wheat and canola crops.

“The data is not going to look good for us,” he said. “We are predicted to see temperatures that will hurt wheat and canola.”

The cold front also prompted National Weather Service to issue a winter weather advisory for much of western and central Oklahoma effective until 1 p.m. today. Garfield County is included in the advisory area. The threat is freezing rain and sleet, along with strong northwest winds.

“Freezing rain and sleet are likely to accumulate on elevated surfaces,” according to the NWS advisory. “Power lines and tree limbs may break under the weight of the ice and the force of strong northwest winds.”

NWS said power outages would be possible throughout the advisory area, “but will be most likely from western north Texas into central and north central Oklahoma.”

NWS forecast a 50 percent chance of precipitation for Enid today, with freezing rain and sleet before 1 p.m., then freezing rain until 2 p.m. Northwest wind is expected from 18-23 mph, with gusts to 32 mph.

The low tonight is expected to be around 24.

It’s that low temperature that has Gribble concerned.

“The critical temperature for wheat is 28 degrees,” he said. “If we stay at or below that, we will have damage to wheat.”

He’s also concerned with how fast the temperature falls. A quicker drop will cause more damage, as water in plant cells freezes. The ice that forms will break the cell walls, causing worse damage.

In 2009, an April freeze caused considerable damage to what was shaping up to be a good harvest, Gribble said. The damage wasn’t necessarily apparent right away, he said, but at harvest, a lot of wheat plants “fell over because the stems were weak” from the freeze damage.

Producers won’t know what damage could happen until a few weeks, Gribble said.

Canola also could be affected, he said, although “canola probably can weather it a little better than wheat.”

One thing working in the canola crop’s favor is its development is a little slower than normal this year, Gribble said. That could lessen the impact of freezing temperatures.�