The drought monitor hasn’t really changed much from last week. The precipitation didn’t really help alleviate the dry conditions but at least it provided some moisture and snow cover. The cooler temperatures helped conditions from worsening but this warmer stretch won’t help. The year 2020 is just around the corner so naturally it’s time for Year In Review columns. This column is no exception so here goes. These are in no particular order and simply one person’s opinion. And this isn’t an op-ed type of column and isn’t meant or intended to delve into politics.
• Weather – While in no special order, the top story in agriculture for 2019 has to be the weather. This really started in the fall of 2018 with the challenges of fall harvest and the establishment of the 2019 wheat crop. These challenges continued over to the preparation and planting of crops in the spring, included the wheat harvest, and the baling of alfalfa. This wasn’t just Kansas but most of the Midwest/Corn Belt and other regions of the country. Besides wet soil issues, severe flooding impacted a large swath of Kansas and the rest of the Midwest. In fact, it was just recently that the Missouri river in its entirety went below flood level. And just so no producer becomes bored, we are now in a deepening drought for most of Western and South Central Kansas.
• Fall 2019 Harvest – Besides the challenges listed previously other weather impacts included delayed harvest and average yields for many – not terrible but not great for most. And another round of delayed wheat planting after a delayed harvest for some but nowhere as bad as last year. Nationwide, tens of thousands of acres of crops remain in the field due to weather and for corn, an inability to obtain propane for driers. Yet in spite of all this, a respectable corn and soybean harvest. Although, the December final report likely won’t be the last word.
• Groundwater issues – Quivira National Wildlife refuge and the attendant issues with irrigators in G.M.D. 5 may have taken the headlines but this is going to be a bigger and bigger issue for the Ogallala and other aquifers. This year provided a respite with the heavy rains, however, the problem isn’t going anywhere. Things must change or large parts of the Ogallala will essentially dry up. Time, money, resources, and research are necessary. A solution will present itself but likely not without pain.
• Weed Control – Weed resistance issues aren’t going anywhere and there are still major issues with the dicamba tolerant soybean system, which if not addressed adequately could mean the loss of a valuable tool. The other negative here is the decrease in no-till systems and the increased wind and water erosion. Not to mention the loss of soil water.
• Trade Wars – While there are other issues, the whole issue of international trade looms large over agriculture, especially in a state like Kansas where so much income depends on exports. Ag needs the USMCA done yesterday, as of this writing it sits in the Senate, and for the Phase One trade deal with China to come to fruitions.
• While not adequate space is available, other issues to mention include: farmer suicides and mental health issues, farm bankruptcies, EPA renewable fuel exemptions, and input costs.
To all, have a safe and Merry Christmas.
Dr. Victor L. Martin is the agriculture instructor/coordinator for Barton Community College. He can be reached at 620-792-9207, ext. 207.