* Nearly a foot of snow falls on key growing areas
* More moisture needed, experts say
* Wheat crop should emerge over the next few weeks
By Carey Gillam
KANSAS CITY, Feb 21 The heavy winter snowstorm
sweeping across the U.S. midsection was a welcomed event for
U.S. winter wheat farmers worried that their drought-stricken
fields were too parched to produce a healthy crop this year.
Nearly a foot or more of snow fell across key growing areas
in Oklahoma and Kansas in the last 24 hours, and more was
"I feel a lot better this morning," said Kansas wheat farmer
Scott Van Allen, who has about 2,300 acres planted to winter
wheat in south-central Kansas. "It snowed all night on us. I was
getting very concerned with the lack of moisture we've had."
Ten inches of snow were reported at the Wichita, Kansas,
airport by 6 a.m. CST (1200 GMT) Thursday morning, according to
the Accuweather forecasting group. Roughly a foot was
accumulating in the Kansas City area Thursday morning, leading
city and state officials to declare a state of emergency.
"Most of the snow has been in Kansas and into Missouri so
far," said Brian Fuchs, a climatologist with the University of
Nebraska Drought Mitigation Center. "With the weather and the
snow we're really looking at a good shot of moisture."
Chicago Board of Trade wheat futures fell more than 2
percent to their lowest level in nearly eight months on Thursday
morning due to beneficial nature of the storms for the wheat
crop in the U.S. Plains.
Still, Fuchs and wheat agronomy experts said that the
ongoing drought has been so pervasive that soil moisture
deficits will not be replenished without several large storm
"This is not going to put a big dent in the drought," said
Fuchs. "The moisture is welcomed, but is it a drought-buster? No
it is not. We need several more storms like this to really start
turning the tide."
Kansas State University wheat agronomist Jim Shroyer agreed.
A foot of snow translates to only about an inch of water for the
soil, he said.
"To fill the profile you would need 10 feet of snow," said
Kansas is typically the top U.S. wheat producing state and
Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Colorado are also top producers. But a
nagging drought has plagued the region, leaving agricultural
producers struggling. Without adequate soil moisture plants
either die outright, or yield poorly, if at all.
The wheat crop will be emerging soon from winter dormancy
and will require good soil moisture to grow.
A report issued Thursday by a consortium of state and
federal climatologists said that as of Feb. 19 more than 82
percent of the High Plains region, which includes Kansas,
Nebraska and Colorado, was suffering from "severe" or worse
Fully 100 percent of Kansas was engulfed in severe drought
or worse, the Drought Monitor report said. The report lists
severe drought as the third-worst level. Extreme drought is
considered the second-worst and exceptional drought is the worst
level of drought. More than 36 percent of the land area in
Kansas was in exceptional drought, the report said.
Back on his farm in Sumner County, Kansas, Van Allen said he
was hopeful that forecasts for more snow next week would bring
more beneficial moisture.
"We'll keep our fingers crossed," he said. "Everyone needs
(Reporting By Carey Gillam; Editing by David Gregorio)