- Associated Press - Thursday, December 15, 2016

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - The recent cold snap with temperatures 15-20 degrees below normal likely hasn’t hurt South Dakota’s fledgling winter wheat crop.

Experts told the Capital Journal (http://bit.ly/2gVkQxX ) that the snow cover will help protect the crop as it provides insulation from the cold air and moisture for next spring. Another positive is that the wheat was planted earlier than usual in September and emerged ahead of its typical pace, with a stronger stand by the time killing temperatures stopped the growing season.

As temperatures have struggled to approach 30 degrees during the past three weeks, Pierre has received about a foot of snow.

Ruth Beck, agronomy field specialist with the South Dakota State University regional extension office in Pierre, said winter wheat is usually hurt over multiple cycles of freezing and thawing.

Beck said it’s best that winter wheat grow enough before winter to show “a couple of tillers and a nice crown.”

“I think most of our winter wheat had a chance to get to that stage,” she said.

Beck said farmers and other agriculture experts won’t know for certain whether the crop is hurt until spring.

In the spring of 2016, 1.08 million acres of wheat were planted, which was down 19 percent from the spring of 2015.

Reid Christopherson, spokesman for the South Dakota Wheat Commission in Pierre, said there are no official estimates of this fall’s winter wheat plantings available yet.

“But there’s a pretty good chance they slipped down below a million acres,” he said.

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Information from: Pierre Capital Journal, http://www.capjournal.com

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