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Do You Feel Lucky?
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Wheat harvest is underway in Kansas. Later than normal but the weather forecast should move it along nicely. Corn development is lagging although good progress has been made with the heat and rains many received. However, the lack of rain in the forecast and the high temperatures combined with corn behind in development sets the crop up, especially the dryland acreage, for a rough time during tasselling, silking, and grain fill.
Long-term weather forecasts are indicating a shift to a more typical summer weather pattern with heat, wind, lower humidities, and most importantly scattered rainfall at best. The crop perhaps the most at risk under these conditions is the dryland soybean crop. Full-season soybeans are also in the early stages of development from late planting so the root system isn’t yet developed enough to maximize soil moisture. This situation is ideal for severe stress over the next several weeks, especially areas that didn’t benefit from the recent rains and on the sandy soils in the area. Hopefully the long-range forecast is wrong.
The biggest issue is that after almost three years of severe drought, there simply isn’t much if any subsoil moisture. As stated in an earlier column, for the wheat crop to be respectable the area needed regular rainfall and moderate temperatures and overall that is what we got. The same applies to full-season summer crops. From a time standpoint, if wheat comes off within the next week, the double-crop window is still open with a reasonable chance of producing a crop. But what are the chances of successful dryland double-cropping after wheat this year?
Unless, a producer has good subsoil moisture, double-cropping isn’t likely to yield much unless rainfall is much above normal and temperatures are reasonable. Since soil moisture is pretty scarce, dryland double-cropping in 2013 is risky, especially on the sands. So what are the best and worst options for dryland double-cropping?
* For a grain crop, sunflowers are likely the best option but little are grown here and the input costs can be pretty steep. So the best choice is probably grain sorghum provided a producer can select a drought/heat tolerant early maturing variety, get it in the ground ASAP and maximize soil moisture by minimizing tillage and leaving residue on the soil surface. It’s still pretty risky.
* If a producer is a little more flexible and has the equipment and/or the need, a feed crop (sorghum X Sudan hybrid, Sudan grass, pearl millet, etc.) may be the best choice. Feed prices are likely to stay high and either as hay or silage feed crops present a potentially profitable opportunity. They require less fertilizer to produce a crop and if conditions start to become extreme, they can be harvested or grazed at almost any time after establishment. At least a producer can get something out of them. As always with feed crops, especially under stress, nitrate and Prussic acid must be monitored.
* The worst choice under the forecasted conditions is soybeans. While potentially the most profitable, they are the most risky in terms of producing a crop. Of course if your aim is weed control, working a broadleaf into the rotation, and you aren’t worried about yield, it may pay to go ahead. However, the likelihood of producing much vegetative growth is slim given the current outlook.
The question, to steal a line from Clint Eastwood, is “Do feel lucky?”