Farmers cautious of future cold snaps

By Chris Schmaedeke: Freedom New Mexico

Unusually cold temperatures haven’t yet affected winter crops in Quay, Curry and Roosevelt counties.

But area farmers are concerned it could cause a problem if the trend continues through spring

During the month of December, the average high temperature in Quay, Curry and Roosevelt counties is anywhere from 52 to 54 degrees but this year has been different in the early weeks of the month.

The recent cold stretch of weather has dropped temperatures almost 15 degrees below normal.

Curry County has experienced the same cold temperatures. An average high for Curry County in December is 52 degrees. The temperature did not reach that high in December until late last week. The average high has been 35 degrees.

Wheat is the main winter crop for both Curry and Roosevelt counties.

Wheat goes into its dormant state during the cold stretch and farmers then begin to hope for snow.

“Wheat plants are actually designed for the cold,” said Stan Jones, Curry County Extension Office agricultural agent. “Cold is not going to kill the plant. Snow can help the growth.”

Curry County farmer Dee Brown said his wheat crop is in its dormant stage. The cold is not really affecting his crop but lack of moisture is a gamble.

“If it warms up for a couple days we may see a little growth,” Brown said. “Moisture is what we need. It has been extremely dry.”

Jones said the crops won’t see any significant growth until about March. The cold has the farmers in a holding period waiting for it to end.

In Roosevelt County, the average high temperature has been 36 degrees, almost 20 degrees below the normal 54 degrees.

“The cold really doesn’t hurt anything at this point,” said Patrick Kircher, Roosevelt County Extension Office agricultural agent. “It may slow down the growth but doesn’t cause any real damage.”

Kircher said while cold isn’t an issue now, if there is a cold stretch like this in the spring it could hurt crops.

Quay County has not experienced the cold temperatures as the other two counties but it has still been colder than normal.