A light dusting of snow covered the ground in and around Garden City Friday morning but it was soon gone.

Snow or any kind of precipitation is desperately needed for the wheat crop across the county and surrounding area.

According to the latest drought map from the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, nearly the entire county is in severe drought. To the west its the same or worse but to the east and for about two-thirds of the state, there are no drought conditions.

Precipitation in the western third of the state has been hard to come by.

John Hollman, professor of agronomy at Kansas State University, said the situation was pretty bleak for wheat in Finney County and in all of southwest Kansas.

Some of the early planted wheat came up but now it virtually can't be seen. For some of the early planting from mid-September to Oct. 1 or later, a lot of that wheat is still there and the seed has not germinated.

Time is an enemy for wheat yield. For every month that wheat emergence is delayed, it cuts off 10 percent of the yield. For wheat that has not emerged yet, there is a 20 percent yield loss potential, Hollman said.

Wheat grain comes from the tillers. Those tillers are usually established in the fall. The earlier tillers are established, that better the yield potential. But when those tillers don't develop like has happened this year, the yield potential is greatly reduced.

The amount of what that has not come up is widespread across the county.

Along with a reduced wheat yield, wheat the has not germinated means there is little or no ground cover on the wheat field and that can lead to serious wind erosion.

"We could see quite a bit of wind erosion. We could get quite a lot of blowing soil this winter," Hollman said.

Quite a few fields in the county were worked more because of herbicide-resistant weeds. And that means even less coverage and more blowing potential. If things don't improve, farmers will have to manage their blowing soil and maybe do some emergency tillage.

If the crop doesn't come up in the spring, farmers may have to consider corn or sorghum.

There is still a chance for the wheat to come up. If the area gets precipitation and the soil is warm enough, the wheat can have some growth. But, with as late as it is in the season, growth would be minimal.

Wheat is a tough plant and will work hard to produce a crop. If the area should have a wet spring, there would be wheat growth but because of the lack of growth in the fall, it would not increase the yield potential.

Late growth would push maturity further into summer time by a week or two. Wheat flowers and sets seed best in the cooler temperatures of spring. As the temperature gets hotter, it reduces the yield potential so even if there is a wet spring, it won't erase the deficits that occurred when the wheat didn't come up in the fall, Hollman said.

For the wheat that did emerge, it needed moisture to develop a good root system to get through the winter. The more moisture in the soil, the better the wheat can stand the cold winter weather. Without that moisture, the wheat is susceptible to winter kill that will reduce the potential yield even further.

Snow would be better than anything for the crop right now. It would provide moisture and act as an insulation against the cold temperatures.

The rain forecast doesn't look too promising. Wesley Hovorka, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service out of Dodge City, said there was the possibility of precipitation next week but it was hard to say how much and what type.

There's a good chance for above normal precipitation for this time of year and for the next two to three months, normal precipitation is possible, Hovorka said.

So nothing specific in the forecast for precipitation but the chance is there and farmers will take any precipitation they can get.

There is some good wheat news though. The irrigated wheat crop is looking good, Hollman said.