Winter Wheat Looking Good; Reservoirs Still Show Drought Impact

Kansas Viewpoint

Late freezes do little damage in south-central Kansas; across the state freeze and drought decimate some areas

Published on: May 15, 2013


Driving around south-central Kansas to get a look at the progress of the winter wheat crop confirms one piece of good news: freeze damage in this part of the state appears to be minimal in spite of a couple of very cold nights.

Probably a solid half of the wheat is either headed out or beginning to head and most of the fields I saw had only a few, if any, telltale white heads that indicate the growing point was damaged by unseasonably late freezes on April 24 and again on May 2.

Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service says that statewide, about half the wheat crop suffered at least some freeze damage, but half did not and is looking pretty good.

A couple more timely showers would be ideal – and we could stand daytime highs a little cooler than yesterday’s 91 degrees – but all in all, it looks like an average wheat harvest in a lot of fields and a not-much-below average overall. The same cannot be said for western Kansas, where drought and freeze have taken a terrible toll on the winter wheat crop and there is insufficient moisture to try for a fall crop.

Promising wheat was the bright spot of a morning that also included checking out whether or not there has been much improvement in the lake levels at Cheney Reservoir, which supplies about 60% of Wichita’s municipal water. There hasn’t.

May 15 statistics show the lake at 1414.99 feet with the top of conservation pool at 1421.60 – still about seven feet low.

That doesn’t sound like a whole lot, but when you look at it from the beaches, campgrounds or boat docks, it’s sad. The rope line of buoys that normally warn swimmers of deep water lies stretched across a patch of barren sand, a good 50 feet from water.

Weeds are growing up all along the shallower shoreline areas where daily use visitors like to picnic or fish from rock jetties. Those areas haven’t seen water in more than a year.

There were a couple of brave souls attempting to launch a boat at the “marginally usuable with great caution” east shore ramp, but for the most part the open water was totally barren of the dozens of boats, including sailboats, that are traditionally on the water at this time of year.

A chance of thunderstorms is in the forecast, with the potential for severe weather on the weekend. However, the chance is low, around 20% and storms that do develop are likely to be spotty and fast-moving.

It looks like we are moving right from February weather into June weather – something that often happens when the spring pattern develops like it did this year. Here’s to hoping that those “pop-ups” do their thing where they are needed most.