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An Early Christmas Present
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Dr. Victor L. Martin

It’s a day early but Merry Christmas. Even though Western Kansas had to struggle through some pretty nasty weather this past week, you didn’t hear many complaints. After the drought conditions that marked the last half of 2010 and most of 2011, the moisture received over the last several weeks was certainly an early Christmas gift for everyone in this part of the country. In this area we received plentiful rain followed by a decent snowfall. Those in southwest and west central Kansas received much needed moisture that not only helped the wheat crop but provided much needed moisture for planting summer crops. Many parts of the state are actually listed having adequate topsoil moisture. Subsoil moisture is still deficient in many area but it’s progress. Why all the excitement in the agriculture community?
· While not out of the woods, there is more than adequate moisture for most of the state’s wheat crop to make it not only through the winter but into March unless temperatures are much above normal.
· The soil moisture will help the wheat crop in at least two ways. First, it will help prevent winterkill from desiccation. This will also help those brave souls who planted canola last fall. Second, wet soils freeze more slowly and provide better insulation for roots and the growing point.
· The snow cover acted as insulation for wheat and helped provide warmer soil temperatures. This helped protect wheat from the single digit temperatures after the previous warm spell.
· Cool season grasses should have good moisture to start growing in late winter/early spring. It should also help warm season grasses get off to a good start.
· Those looking to plant a crop like spring oats for forage should have no trouble planting into good moisture. With the lack of hay and its cost, many area producers are looking for hay and pasture this spring. This rain provides many options that will be discussed here early next year.
· Wet soils with cover are a lot less susceptible to wind erosion than dry soils, especially the sandier areas.
· Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira benefit from this moisture as do area creeks and ponds.
The power of water or lack of it to alter our lives is profound. Today we pretty much take it for granted that we can turn on the tap and have abundant, potable water. It pays to remember that of the seven billion people on earth; almost three billion don’t have access to a safe reliable water supply.
As 2011 draws to a close, those of us living in the Great Plains should be thankful that through the efforts of many, both public and private, we are able to weather these climate extremes.