Kansas weather, wheat fields and food prices

February 24, 2011

Kansans are familiar with wide swings in the weather. This year, however, the weather seems more extreme than most.

We were lucky at the start of wheat season. We had a nice rain in early October, just in time for planting of our hard red winter wheat. Our wheat sprouted and established a good stand before it went into winter dormancy. Farmers in western Kansas and other areas weren’t so lucky. Planted fields stood bare, without enough moisture to sprout wheat seeds.

Our wheat quickly became thirsty, too. We didn’t have any more moisture  until the Feb. 1 blizzard. Snow brings moisture, but it takes 6.25 inches of snow to make 1 inch of rain. I’m convinced Kansas snow produces even less moisture. It seems dry compared to the soggy snow of my native Wisconsin.

Now, in February we’ve had temperatures in the 60s and 7os, warmer than our usual  high 40s and low 50s. These warm temperatures are waking up dormant wheat too early. Here’s why that’s bad. The wheat could use up valuable moisture too soon. It could become susceptible to freeze damage if the weather turns frigid again. (Several years ago, we suffered a near total loss when a late freeze hit.) Insects and diseases could also become a problem. (More details in this Kansas Farmer story: http://tinyurl.com/6b37k7e.)

We’re watching wheat prices along with watching our fields. Prices are high now, close to $7.80 per bushel today on the futures market.

What does this mean for those of us who eat? There are many factors that dictate food prices, including the price of our wheat commodity, global supply and demand and more. Here’s what the Agriculture Department is predicting:

U.S. consumers should brace for rising food costs this year as higher commodity and energy prices make their way to products lining grocery store shelves, the Agriculture Department said on Thursday. Food prices are forecast to rise a sharp 3.5 percent this year — nearly double the overall inflation rate.

So, as farmers and consumers, we watch and wait. The bright side:  Green wheat fields cheer up a cloudy winter day.

Hard red winter wheat field on our Kansas farm

Hard red winter wheat field on our Kansas farm

2 Responses to “Kansas weather, wheat fields and food prices”

  1. […] has better chance for success. That’s even if the rest of the growing season is dry. This past year helped proved that fact for […]

  2. […] fertility, has better chance for success. That’s even if the rest of the growing season is dry. This past year helped proved that fact for […]

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