CHINESE OFFICIALS STILL LOOKING FOR ORIGINATION OF BIRD FLU AS REPORTED CASES INCREASE... China now has 38 known cases of the H7N9 strain of bird flu with 10 of those resulting in deaths. All reported cases are in eastern China. Chinese and global health officials are still looking for the original source of the disease.
Meanwhile, a UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) official says the group is worried about the spread of the virus outside of China. As a result, FAO is "proactively initiating surveillance programs in neighboring countries like Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam, which border China and are at particular risk, and we are trying to understand how the poultry movement has taken place so we can identify more accurately where the risk is going to be," according to Subhash Morzaria, FAO's Regional Manager of the Emergency Center for Transboundary Animal Diseases.
While FAO is concerned about the spread of H7N9 in birds outside of China, Morzaria says there are no concerns of this tuning into a pandemic. "This new H7N9 virus hasn't been demonstrated to be transmitted between humans, so from that context we think that the H7N9 virus is not going to be a pandemic like H1N1 strains. These are the early indications," Morzaria says.
Morzaria shot down talk the H7N9 virus is in any way tied to the recent death of pigs that were found floating in rivers in Shanghai. "The report of the floating pigs in the river, there is absolutely no relationship, it is completely not associated with this virus."
ACTIVE WEATHER ACROSS THE NATION EASES DROUGHT FOOTPRINT... According to the National Drought Monitor, 35.35% of the contiguous U.S. is drought-free, which is a slight improvement from 33.29% last week and compares to 39.87% a year-ago. The monitor notes that an active weather pattern that included several fronts and storm systems brought precip to much of the nation last week -- especially the Plains. Two separate systems -- one in the Midwest and one in the South -- dropped light to moderate precip on both areas the week ended April 9. The monitor also noted that as the reporting period ended, a potent storm system had begun producing welcome precip for the north-central Plains and western Corn Belt and that more rain and severe weather was possible for the eastern half of the U.S. Click here to view the maps and get more text highlights.
CORN BELT DROUGHT CONDITIONS IMPROVE, BUT MORE IS NEEDED... According to the National Drought Monitor, 60.17% of the Midwest is drought-free, which compares to 55.23% of the region last week and 64.51% last year. The eastern part of the Corn Belt is largely drought-free, while the western Belt still has wide stretches of drought. Iowa, for instance, still has drought conditions across 83.17% of the state, including 20.65% in the extreme drought category.
Light to moderate precip helped ease drought conditions in eastern and central Iowa, northern Illinois, southern Wisconsin and eastern Missouri. In contrast, the upper Midwest saw no changes in the drought profile as the soils had ice in lower soil layers and snow remains on the ground in North Dakota and the northern halves of both Minnesota and Wisconsin (and other areas after the April 9-10 snowfall). The north-central Plains also benefited from soaking, 1.5 to 3-inch rains last week, especially in the region from southwest Nebraska northeastward to southeastern South Dakota. Get more details.
HARD FREEZE HITS HRW CROP -- NOW WHAT?... Over the past two nights, temps dipped into the 20s or below across the Plains as far south as northern Texas, including a hard freeze with temps in the teens for western Kansas. "The good news is that the wheat crop is not nearly as far along in development as it was at this time last year due to the drought, but any wheat at the jointing stage or later will probably lose some tillers where temperatures were in the teens for an extended time," explains Jim Shroyer, Kansas State Research and Extension crop production specialist. As of April 7, 22% of the Kansas wheat crop was jointed.
Wheat in the jointing stage can usually tolerate temperatures in the mid- to upper-20s for several hours, Shroyer says, but if temps dip into the low 20s or below for several hours, the lower stems, leaves or developing head may be injured. Wheat that hasn't started to joint should escape major damage.
In evaluating freeze damage to the crop, Shroyer recommends, "Be patient. Do not take any immediate actions as a result of the freeze, such as destroying the field for recropping. It will take several days of warm weather to accurately evaluate the extent of damage." After a few days a farmer should split open some stems to check the head. If it is green and seems firm, it is probably fine, but if the head is a yellow shade or mushy, it may have freeze injury. Shroyer also details some early signs of frost damage:
- Silage smell to the field is a sign of leaf damage.
- Ice in the stems below the first node the morning of the freeze likely indicates tiller damage.
- Lodging immediately after the freeze is a sign of stem damage.
"The best thing producers can do for the first few days is walk the fields to observe lodging, crimped stems and damaged leaves," according to Shroyer.