Last weekend’s weather put a damper on the Thanksgiving weekend for many, however, for farmers it was a welcome event. One of the positives, at least in the immediate area was a lack of wind to damage trees, structures, and power lines covered with ice. Reno County wasn’t as lucky as they had much heavier ice accumulations. And while the streets weren’t good, especially within the Great Bend city limits, and cancelled many events, there was a bright side for the area.
Perhaps the biggest benefit is that the amount of the state in Moderate Drought decreased significantly and while Barton County is in Moderate Drought, conditions have improved. And Western Kansas has the best moisture conditions it’s had in years this late in the fall/early winter. And overall wheat conditions are good compared to the last several years at this time. But what are the benefits of this latest round of moisture and the start of winter weather?
• Moist soils cool more slowly and they retain warmth better than dry soils. This provides, in conjunction with the surface cover of the crop and residues, a more stable soil environment and better protects the growing point.
• This moisture allows roots to continue to develop so even though top growth may have essentially stopped, roots can continue to develop. And well hydrated roots are better able to withstand damage from cold temperatures.
• Wheat breaking dormancy in late winter/early spring with good soil moisture is able to resume growth more vigorously and being healthier better able to withstand insect and other pressures.
• Good soil moisture allows for more efficient nutrient uptake and this maintains plant health. This not only helps with growth but creates a healthier plant better able to cope with adverse conditions and resume vigorous growth after breaking dormancy.
• Temperatures this fall didn’t go from warm to frigid in a short period of time and wheat was able to enter dormancy gradually and not suffer from the damage an abrupt change to cold temperatures can cause.
One of the downsides though is that the markets recognize the winter wheat crop is in good shape and that often results in downward pressure on the market. The upside is that something will happen most years to scare the market and help move prices up. So while many were frowning and unhappy this last weekend, many a wheat farmer had a huge grin on their face.