- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 21, 2009

WICHITA, KAN. (AP) - Heavy rains across Kansas boosted the state’s winter wheat crop, even as farmers got a clearer picture of damage caused by temperatures dipping below freezing earlier this month.

A report Monday from the Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service rated 40 percent of the crop as fair, 40 percent as good and 4 percent as excellent, after the recent wet weather. Sixteen percent of the crop is in poor to very poor condition.

Conditions varied dramatically across the state, with south-central Kansas wheat being hardest hit by frigid temperatures two weeks ago. Farmers in that major wheat-growing region were grateful for recent cool, wet weather that has helped wheat plants heal themselves.

Grower Scott Van Allen said he found about 30 percent of his crop was damaged as he scouted his 2,300 acres of wheat in the Clearwater area. One freeze-damaged field was turning yellow and brown, rather than greening up, he said.

“I’m sleeping better with crop insurance,” Van Allen said. “I am still optimistic we can still have a good average crop. The freeze and cold weather has taken the top off.”

That assessment was shared by Jim Shroyer, an Kansas State University Extension wheat specialist. If the weather remains good, some of the plants may be able to recover and produce new heads, or tillers.

“At this point we can retiller and end up with a fairly good yield,” Shroyer said.

Since the freeze, the state has had pretty good weather for wheat. It hasn’t been too cold or too hot and there has been plenty of rain.

“If this continues, there is a possibility of a pretty good yield,” Shroyer said. “I wouldn’t say great, but we may not even notice that we had … freeze damage.”

The worst of the damage appears to be around the area of Wellington, which is about 35 miles south of Wichita. There was also damage reported around Sumner, Harper and Barber counties, he said.

“The major issue has been the freeze,” Shroyer said. “It doesn’t have the market concerned, but it has the producer concerned.”

Meanwhile, in arid western Kansas, the recent rainfall provided much needed relief to many drought-stressed wheat fields.

The report indicated that about 93 percent of the state had adequate to surplus topsoil moisture, with 87 percent of the state reporting adequate to surplus subsoil moisture levels.

“It is very welcome,” said Hoisington wheat grower Dean Stoskopf. “We went into winter with good subsoil moisture. This is what we need to keep things going.”

His crops were far enough behind in development at the time of the freeze that they were still mostly below the soil and weren’t damaged.

But he said it is still too early to make a guess at the size of this year’s wheat crop.

“I don’t think it is going to be anything spectacular,” Stoskopf said. “It should be an average crop.”

___

LANSING, Mich. (AP) _ A corporate dairy in southern Michigan has been ordered to pay $223,500 in penalties by May 18 for mismanaging manure from 6,500 cows.

Ingham County Circuit Judge James Giddings last week rejected the Vreba-Hoff Dairy’s request for more time to pay up until it could add 1,000 cattle at its two facilities near Hudson.

The fines were assessed under a deal between the company and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. The DEQ announced the ruling Monday.

The DEQ blames Vreba-Hoff for manure spills and says the dairy has missed deadlines for getting new treatment systems up and running.

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