Butler County Times Gazette
  • Farmers welcome snow covering winter wheat

  • While many are getting tired of the snow that has covered the ground for nearly two weeks, it is a welcome sight to Butler County wheat farmers.
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  • While many are getting tired of the snow that has covered the ground for nearly two weeks, it is a welcome sight to Butler County wheat farmers.
    There are approximately 250,000 acres of cropland in Butler County that provide more than $50 million to the local economy. Roughly 25,000 acres of that are planted with winter wheat, making it an important commodity to the county’s economy.
    Winter wheat, which is planted in September and October and sprouts in November before going dormant for the winter, needs the snow.
    “The wheat the crop has been suffering. When it is dry and cold we start seeing freeze damage,” said David Kehler, Butler County Extension director and ag. agent. “The snow provides insulation and protection from this type of damage.”
    That freeze damage is being seen by farmers countywide.
    Meteorologist and Andover native Aaron Blaser agreed with Kehler, saying while November weather was warm and good for sprouting, December and January have been a different story altogether.
    “We had extremely cold arctic air move down from Canada,” said Blaser. “While a few days of that may not hurt too much, now that we have continued this colder than normal winter, it is more and more important to keep snow on the ground to insulate that sprout.”
    The snow also provides needed moisture for the crop, although not as much as one might think.
    “On average, it takes on average 10 to 12 inches of snow to make one inch of moisture. But it depends on the moisture content of snow,” said Blaser. “Last week’s snow had a high moisture content that provided an inch of moisture from just 8.5 inches of snow. The second round of snow had very low moisture.”
    Kehler adds another benefit of snow over rain is you have no run-off which is more beneficial to the crops.
    “Does it end the drought? Does this make for a 100 percent wheat crop? Certainly not,” said Kehler. “But it helps and we’ll take all we can get.
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