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A blast of arctic air will bring frigid nights to the central United States and may cause damage to the winter wheat crop over the southern Plains this weekend.
What is likely to be the coldest blast of air for the balance of the spring is set to plunge southeastward across the Plains, Great Lakes and Mississippi Valley this weekend.
Temperatures are projected to drop into the single digits to near zero Fahrenheit over parts of the northern Plains and the Upper Midwest this weekend.
Lows in the teens to lower 20s will be common farther south and east over the Plains to the middle Mississippi and Ohio valleys.
"Twenty-four degrees is a critical temperature for significant damage to wheat in the jointing stage," according to AccuWeather Senior Agricultural Meteorologist Dale Mohler.
Winter wheat is planted in the fall, germinates then goes dormant during the middle of the winter, then re-sprouts during the early spring.
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"Because of sufficient warmth in recent weeks, winter wheat in portions of western Oklahoma and northwestern Texas are is at the jointing stage and will be at risk for damage due to a hard freeze this weekend," Mohler said.
"Farther north, in Kansas, the wheat is not that far along due to colder conditions during March, so we do not expect major problems to the wheat crop with this freeze," Mohler said.
The cold blast will follow the latest storms with snow from the Upper Midwest to the central Plains and the Ohio Valley to end this week.
"It is possible the freeze won't be as damaging as it could be to the winter wheat in parts of the southern Plains," Mohler said. "Much of the wheat in this area has already been hammered due to long-term and ongoing drought, so it is not a good crop to begin with."
During early next week, another batch of chilly air will develop in place over the Plains. However, since this air is not of Arctic origin, temperatures are not projected to dip as low as that of this weekend.
"During the balance of April, temperatures are forecast to slowly ratchet higher over the Central states," according to AccuWeather Lead Long-Range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok.
Prolonged warmth is not likely through at least the third week of the month for the central and northern Plains.
"Farther to the east, from the Mississippi Valley to the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes on east, a significant turnaround with temperatures is likely with only brief interruptions of chill for the balance of April," Pastelok said.
This anticipated change toward warmer conditions from the Mississippi River on east should have garden center stores very busy by the middle of April.
A potential problem for agriculture in the East will be whether the soil has a chance to dry out enough to work in the fields in between storms.
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