US cold snap “causes widespread winterkill” in wheat belt

2 Jan 2018 | Tom Houghton

Extreme cold across North America has caused widespread winterkill in the US wheat crop where snow cover had not yet settled, Radiant Solutions, the parent company of meteorological consultancy MDA Weather Solutions, said in a press release Tuesday.

Bitterly cold temperatures, which had already threatened the wheat crop in much of the country over the weekend, worsened Monday as temperatures dropped as low as -23 Celsius (-9 Fahrenheit) in Kansas.

There had been speculation from some outfits that the cold weather had caused crop damage over the Christmas break, but this statement was the first major signal of a significant deterioration in the crop’s quality.

“Widespread winterkill occurred on Monday across south-eastern Colorado, much of Kansas, far northern Oklahoma, central Missouri, southern Illinois, and southwestern Indiana,” a statement from Radiant Solutions said Tuesday.

“Damage occurred in about a quarter of the hard red wheat belt in the Central Plains, with about 5% of the soft red wheat belt in the Midwest seeing impacts,” Don Keeney of Radiant said.

Markets rallied on the news, with both major US wheat futures contracts touching highs not seen since early December.

The Chicago SRW March contract was up 1.9% from its open to a high of $4.3625/bu, while the Kansas City HRW contract was up 1.7% to highs of $4.3575/bu.

While Radiant was announcing the impact of winterkill, other analysts played down its impact, pointing out the full extent of any potential winterkill will remain unknown until the spring when the wheat crop should start to emerge.

“We don’t see any major decline in crop conditions that are already relatively low... for the major producing states,” said Terry Reilly of Futures International in a research note Tuesday.