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Agriculture catch-up
Dr. Victor Martin

As of April 8th the Drought Monitor is showing continuing improved conditions remaining. The rains of Tuesday and Wednesday of last week aren’t included. Abnormally dry conditions have retreated even further west, none of the state is in extreme drought, there is very little severe drought left out west and moderate drought is confined to the extreme western counties. The six to ten-day outlook (April 13 to 17) indicates temperatures well below normal and average to slightly above average precipitation. The eight to 14 day outlook (April 15 to 21) indicates slightly below normal precipitation and below normal temperatures. Today, let’s take a breath and catch up to where we are Ag wise.

• First a quick look at the long-term weather outlook. Through July, above normal temperatures and somewhat below normal precipitation. For our area this trend is forecast to continue through October. This is only an outlook and hardly set in stone. And it doesn’t indicate the extent of heat or possible drought.

• We went from the mid-80s to low 30s in less than 24 hours last week. We experienced thunderstorms, hail and a few hours later snow. Is this common. No but it’s hardly rare. There has been snowfall recorded in the area in early May. While these extremes can be tough on plants and some gardeners are second guessing planting early, what really matters for most plants, especially our crops is not only a frost but how low the temperature drops and for how long. We didn’t experience freezing temperatures last week. However, this is why it’s recommended to wait and plant broadleaves like soybeans until May in this area. The growing point is above the soil surface and if it is lost the plant will die. However, for grasses like corn and grain sorghum the growing point is still below the soil surface for approximately a month after germination so a frost may burn back leaves but not kill the plant.

• The wheat crop is jointing so the growing point is now above the soil surface which means susceptibility to frost damage. The rains and cooler temperatures forecast are just what wheat and the oats in the area want. As of now insect pressure appears low. Alfalfa also appreciates this weather and is growing nicely, however, insect feeding is increasing and spraying is occurring.

• The drier conditions after recent rains means corn and then soybeans should have more than adequate moisture for germination and establishment based on the weather outlook. For corn, we aren’t as concerned about the air temperature as much as the two inch soil temperature. It should be at least 50 degrees at noon at a two inch depth. As of Thursday morning the two inch soil temperatures in the region from the K-State Mesonet were 48 degrees in Stafford County with a seven day average of 53 degrees. At Hays 46 and 53 degrees were the current and average temperatures.  So in plain English, we are in good shape to plant corn, especially dryland, as soon as soil moisture conditions permit.

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