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U.S. Plains Young Wheat Crop at Risk from Arctic Blast

Bitter cold conditions expected to move through the U.S. Plains wheat belt next week will put the young crop at risk of winterkill if the region does not see snow before then, an agricultural meteorologist said on Friday.

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Bitter cold conditions expected to move through the U.S. Plains wheat belt next week will put the young crop at risk of winterkill if the region does not see snow before then, an agricultural meteorologist said on Friday.

World Weather Inc meteorologist Drew Lerner said a Canadian cold front is heading to the Plains wheat country, Kansas to Colorado, mid- to late next week. Temperatures could dip to below zero Fahrenheit (-18 C) by next Friday.

But the chances of the region getting snow before then are good, Lerner said. The snow provides a layer of insulation to the crop, protecting it from damage. The U.S. weather model is forecasting heavy snows for the Plains and western Midwest next week.

"At this point, it's something to keep an eye on," Lerner said.

Over the next few days, the Plains winter wheat belt will warm up into the range of 50 to 60s degrees F, bringing some of the crop out of dormancy in the southern portion of the belt, he said. The crop will benefit from the moisture and the transition to colder temperatures late next week should be gradual, easing crop stress brought on by the frigid temperatures.

The key will be the snow, Lerner added.

Dormant wheat unprotected from snow is at risk of damage when temperatures dip below 0 F for four hours or more.

In world weather, the Argentine wheat crop is getting a break from heavy rains earlier in the week, which is helping crop conditions stabilize after excessive moisture raised concerns of crop quality, Lerner said.

The Australian wheat crop is at risk of quality damage as heavy rains are forecast to move through southeastern Australia Wednesday to Friday.

(Reporting by Christine Stebbins; Editing by Jan Paschal)

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