* Cold snap may have harmed some Carolina/Virginia wheat
* Another cold snap expected in the Plains wheat next week
* Drought stress easing but crops not out of the woods
By Sam Nelson
CHICAGO, March 28 A cold snap early on Thursday
may have harmed some of the soft red winter wheat crop in the
Carolinas and Virginia while another round of cold air is posing
a threat to the Plains hard red winter wheat crop next week, an
agricultural meteorologist said.
"It's (Carolinas) not a big wheat producing area but some of
the crop there could have been harmed, temperatures dropped to
the mid to upper 20s (Fahrenheit)," said Andy Karst, a
meteorologist for World Weather Inc.
Karst said another cold snap was likely in the U.S. Plains
next week but it was too early to know how low temperatures
would fall. A gradual improvement in spring fieldwork weather is
expected in the Midwest over the next 10 days, he said.
Freezing temperatures early this week likely harmed some of
the maturing wheat crop in the Plains states of Oklahoma and
Texas, crop experts and meteorologists said.
"It won't be ideal but there will be a brief warmup followed
by another cool down, some precipitation but not heavy
rainfall," he said.
Karst said improved topsoil moisture in the Plains would
allow for rapid growth of the wheat crop but subsoil moisture
levels remain low. "It is better but they will need a lot more
rain to bring them out of drought status," he said.
The cold snap this week added to woes stemming from the
worst drought in more than 50 years that continues to hamper
growth and development of the hard red winter wheat crop.
Don Keeney, a meteorologist for MDA Weather Services, said
that as of Saturday, 6 to 8 inches of rain were needed to bring
soil moisture levels back to normal in much of eastern Nebraska
and a corner of northeast Kansas, while 2 to 4 inches were
needed in the balance of the central Plains and western Iowa.
Soil moisture levels had returned to normal in an area from
eastern Iowa and Missouri eastward.
Light rains have helped reduce severe and extreme drought
conditions in portions of the U.S. Plains, but abnormally dry
conditions lingered in the area that produces most of the
country's wheat, according to a weekly report issued late last
A new weekly report will be released late on Thursday.
There was little rain in Texas, resulting in an expansion of
the state's area of "exceptional" dryness, the worst condition
as classified by the Drought Monitor report issued by a
consortium of state and federal climatologists.
But in the top wheat-growing state of Kansas, "extreme"
conditions moderated slightly even though the entire state as
well as the entire High Plains region, outside of part of North
Dakota, remains in a drought, the report stated.
The lack of rainfall and short top soil moisture levels
could stress the wheat crop and reduce yields at harvest. The
crop is ending its winter dormancy, and recent below-normal
temperatures may also harm the young plants.
In a separate report on Thursday, the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration forecast an easing of drought
conditions and above-normal temperatures this spring in both the
Plains and Midwest regions.
(Reporting by Sam Nelson; Editing by Maureen Bavdek)