Cold Snap Could Devastate Oklahoma's Top Crop


Wednesday, April 10th 2013, 8:59 pm
By: News 9


Icy weather from Wednesday and Thursday could mean total devastation for farmers growing Oklahoma's number one crop. This time of the year, winter weather conditions can wipe out entire wheat fields, according to experts.

Farmer Paul Fruendt manages 1,000 acres just outside of Guthrie. He's grown wheat for 30 years.

"Let's say we get down to 15 degrees tonight, this plant will be gone," Fruendt said.

Currently, wheat is in a crucial growing stage when it is most sensitive to extreme conditions, according to Fruendt.

On Wednesday morning, ice coated much of central Oklahoma causing serious concern for farmers. Just as Wednesday's cold snap was setting in, farmers were able to see first signs of damage from two weeks ago when the temperatures took an unexpected fall. That drop killed 15 percent of Fruendt's crop. Some farmers lost everything.

4/10/2013 Related Story: Spring Storm System Brings Winter-Like Weather To Oklahoma

"Financially, for a wheat farmer, it could be total devastation," Fruendt said. "A lot of times for us in Oklahoma, we try to figure out other crops to grow at other times of the year."

Fruendt says the future of wheat will impact just about everyone with an economic ripple effect sure to be felt throughout the state and country. And, this year could see more heartache than years' past because Oklahomans are also dealing with a lack of rain.

"[The wheat crop does] not have the yield potential that it would have had, had we not had the drought in place," Fruendt said.

Experts say more rain will be key long term. Short term, farmers will learn what damage the latest arctic blast will cause in about two weeks. So far, wheat farms to the south and west of Oklahoma City have been hit the hardest.