After blizzard, Kansas winter wheat producers watching for rust

Samantha Fox

The snow-covered winter wheat crop in Kansas seems to have survived, but the window for spraying to prevent rust has closed making the crop vulnerable to the disease.

David Schemm is a winter wheat farmer from Sharon Springs, Kan., where the crop was recently hit by a blizzard that covered parts of Kansas, Oklahoma and Colorado.

He had planted about 2,000 acres that were at various stages before the storm hit. Schemm said the wheat negatively affected by the weather was mostly the more mature wheat, but the damage wasn’t as severe as it could have been, Schemm said.

Some mature wheat was either bent or broken.


Schemm said only about 30 to 40 percent of his crop was mature when the storm hit, and of those only about 30 or 40 percent of the crop was hurt by the storm.

Schemm reduced the amount of wheat he normally plants due to the low wheat prices, so the hope is for as little damage as possible and to break even.

Although the storm caused some damage, Schemm is more concerned about future damage from rust.

When the snow hit it was the best time to spray for rust, Schemm said. Now that window has passed because it is too close to harvest, leaving the crop vulnerable to rust.

“You get the best impact from a preventative,” Schemm said. “But the damage is already done.”

There were reports of rust in Kansas prior to the blizzard, but Schemm said it hadn’t been spotted in his area.

So now, it’s a waiting game to see if and when the rust hits, and more moisture is expected in Kansas, according to the National Weather Service.

As of May 14, the winter wheat conditions in Kansas were less than stellar.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s crop progress report, 56 percent of the winter wheat crop was ranked very poor to fair, while 38 percent of the crop was in good condition. Only 6 percent was in excellent condition.

But Schemm said his crop seemed to be doing alright after the storm. There was some yellowing and freezing, but overall the damage could have been worse.

“I’ve been truly amazed how resilient that crop is,” Schemm said.

— Fox is a reporter for The Fence Post. She can be reached at (970) 362-4410, or on Twitter @FoxonaFarm.