Warmer temperatures has area blooming earlier than usual

By Paul Harris

Spouses may be getting out that honey-do list a little sooner than normal this year. Temperatures in Manhattan will hover around 80 degrees for the next week, causing grasses and flowers to green earlier than expected.

“It could cause you to get that lawnmower out a little earlier,” Riley County Extension horticulture agent Gregg Eyestone said.

Eyestone said he is not concerned about temperatures changing rapidly enough to cause any damage. They would have to drop to 32 degrees to cause damage to fruit crops, but it would take temperatures in the teens to cause damage to area flowers such as daffodils.

At this point, Eyestone would prefer the temperatures to gradually decrease to better protect plants if a cold spell were to occur.

Lack of moisture is another concern.

“Once plants start to leaf out, we need some ground moisture and may need to start our irrigation system,” he said.

Plants need an inch of moisture per week to support that early growth, Eyestone said. “Fortunately, we are not in any dire straits,” he added.

All area farmers can do is sit and wait. Because of the high temperatures, the wheat crop is two weeks ahead of schedule. The biggest problem is the severity of damage that could be caused by a spring freeze, according to Riley County Extension agriculture agent Gregg McClure.

McClure said the concern is a legitimate one.

“We could have a freeze in the middle of May that could damage the wheat crop,” he said. “There are different temperatures at different stages of growth.”

There is nothing farmers can do to prevent spring freeze.

“All we can is worry,” he said. “Once it happens, we have to look at what happened and see if the crop is damaged.”

Currently the crop is in the tillering stage. As long as temperatures stay above 12 degrees, it will be fine. As the wheat continues to grow, the temperature where injury occurs also increases. In the boot and heading stage, temperatures that hover around 28 degrees for more than two hours can cause damage to the wheat crop, according to McClure.

This year that stage is expected to begin in early May.

Because of the early growth, wheat is going to stay in these latter stages longer too.

The extension agent said he’s almost seen an entire wheat crop knocked out by a late freeze, but that hasn’t happened in more than 30 years.

There is good news though.

“If we miss that spring freeze, we are early and we are going to produce a wheat crop early and have a higher yield,” he said.

According to weather.com, overnight lows are expected to stay above 40 degrees for the next nine days.

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