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2020 local agriculture wrap up
Dr. Victor Martin

The Drought Monitor hasn’t yet been released as this is written but there is likely little change over the past week. The six to 10-day outlook (Dec. 28 to Jan. 1) indicates below normal temperatures for the state and believe it or not, above normal precipitation. While normal isn’t much, anything would be welcome. The eight to 14-day outlook (Dec. 30 to Jan. 5) indicates normal temperatures and normal precipitation. It appears that after a somewhat active weather pattern due to a what is termed a high amplitude jet stream we are entering a zonal pattern (fairly flat) and calmer weather to start the 2021.

Last week’s column focused on 2020 and what happened nationally in agriculture. Today, let’s get a little more local on what happened in the Golden Belt across the food, fiber, and fuels industry. This list isn’t meant to be comprehensive but provide a look back at a challenging year for everybody.  

• After a challenging start and weather extremes, especially moisture, the 2020 wheat fared better than many expected. The estimate was that almost 134,000 acres were harvest with an average yield of 48.4 bushels per acre and total production of almost 6.5 million bushels. Not bad as challenging as the fall and winter were. Overall, the establishment for most wheat acres planted this fall went much better than in the fall of 2019 and even some of the later planted fields are emerging.

• Corn yields were bad for the most part but not fantastic for most either with the soil moisture extremes. The estimates (dryland and irrigated combined) corn grain are at 4.85 million bushels with an average yield of 147.4 bushels per acre. Again, not bad.

• Grain sorghum overall had an excellent year in 2020 with 72,000 harvested acres, an average yield of 100 bushels per acre and a total harvest of 7.24 million bushels. This is good news as demand is strong, especially the export market to Mexico and China. As a side note, corn acreage was less than half the grain sorghum acreage this year.

• Soybean numbers are a combination of dryland and irrigated numbers. Depending on a number of factors including planting date, yields varied a great deal and many fields were hurt but dry September conditions as pods were filling. Still, an average yield of 29.9 bushels per acre isn’t bad and resulted in total production of 1.075 million bushels on 36,000 harvested acres.  

So in simple terms, it wasn’t a bad year for crop producers production wise. As of this winter, inputs costs have decreased some and while not in the stratosphere, crop prices have improved markedly, domestic and export demand are overall strong. Finally, there is a promise of some monetary relief for producers heading into the new year as the world continues to cope with COVID-19.

Dr. Victor L. Martin is the agriculture instructor/coordinator for Barton Community College. He can be reached at 620-792-9207, ext. 207.