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A 2020 wheat primer
Dr. Victor Martin

First, the abnormally dry conditions exited Barton County as of this past Tuesday. Pawnee and Rush were still listed as abnormally dry but rains this past week may have helped. The abnormally dry area is Southwest Kansas. With a bullseye of moderate drought northwest of Dodge City. The rains are welcome for the milo and soybean crops. Almost all of the corn in the area is past needing much, if any additional moisture. What all three crops need now is heat. Daytime temperatures in the 90s with nighttime conditions in the upper 60s to low 70s. Over the last several weeks, Stacy Campbell, the ANR agent for the district has published extensive articles regarding wheat planting. Two items come to mind. First, let’s condense this a bit. Second, it really doesn’t address what the sand farmers south of the river need.

• With the recent moisture, many 2019 wheat fields are solid stands of volunteer wheat. This needs to be eliminated for around two miles from 2020 wheat fields at least two weeks before planting. Producers understand the problem. Volunteer wheat is a host for the wheat curl mite. This mite transmits wheat streak mosaic virus which can do substantial damage to wheat. Many will remember several years back when the problem was so serious there were suggestions of passing laws in Topeka to mandate control. Through tillage or chemically it needs to disappear. Chemically would be preferable if possible, especially if the volunteer is thick.  

• If you are using bin run seed, take the time and spend the money to have it cleaned. If you had certain head diseases and you aren’t grazing, use a seed treatment with a a fungicide. If you know you have problems like wire worms in your soil and not grazing, consider an insecticide in addition to the fungicide.

• Stacy spoke about soil sampling and mobile nutrients (Nitrogen, Sulfur, and Chloride). Add in potassium to the mix unless you have high potassium levels. He indicated potassium isn’t mobile as it’s a cation. Well, yes and no. It is far less mobile than most anions, but it will leach, especially with heavy rains and sandy soils. If you aren’t soil testing, and tests for mobile nutrients should be conducted about now. Just assume, especially under sandy soils, you need N, S, and Cl.  

• If you have sandier ground and good moisture, consider planting earlier than the fly free date with resistant varieties. Most sand farmers know this. For heavier ground, wait until the fly free date around the end of September. This leads to one more point.

• If you are following a summer row crop, be ready.  Some corn harvest will be timely, some will not. Milo harvest looks to be quite variable with soybeans likely later than normal. Consider planting no-till or with minimal tillage. If milo is still green, consider an herbicide. If your planting is delayed past mid-October, increase seeding rates.

Finally, have a safe Labor Day.

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