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Dr. Victor L. Martin
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Next week we will pick up our discussion of rotational no-till crops for our area. This week, let’s take a moment and see what the weather of this past week means for the area. Unfortunately, as is often the case here, the price of meaningful rain is severe weather, especially during the spring and early summer. The tragic deaths in northern Stafford County are a reminder of just how quickly our weather can turn violent and deadly.  The warning system at the college went off warning of a tornado in the area as I was preparing to leave and I waited until the all clear was given. If I had left just a moment or two earlier, I would have missed the warning unless I had the radio on.
The precipitation this past week while welcome doesn’t solve all our problems but it certainly helps. I have heard reports from about one-half to over three inches of rainfall in the area. Around two inches seems to be common. While this will hardly create a huge yield boost, it will allow the wheat that was hanging on to produce grain and hopefully bump up test weights. If the current prices hold and wheat is worth over eight dollars a bushel, that twenty bushel wheat will look okay. I haven’t noticed much wheat laying down in the area from the weather. If the entire plant laid over there is a good chance it can at least partially stand back up and develop normally. If the stem broke over, it can prevent proper grain development. Probably most of you know the effects of hail on a wheat crop.
The only summer crop that may have been affected by the severe weather was corn. However, the corn in the area was not very far along and except under conditions of prolonged standing water, should survive just fine. Even if hail destroyed the plant, the fact that the growing point was still below the ground and the weather is not predicted to be extremely warm should allow it to recover. The biggest concern would be keeping an eye on weeds that can gain a foothold while the corn recovers.
For the alfalfa, the combination of rain with an increase in beneficial insects should allow for good growth on the second cutting and hopefully allow for producers still waiting to get the first cutting out of the way to swath. The negative factor is that regular rains will be needed for a bumper second cutting since the plant had already depleted much of the subsoil moisture.
Speaking of subsoil moisture, ground that was fallow over the winter, especially after wheat, still had subsoil moisture. The amount of rain many received on their fields should go a long way for producers considering soybeans and/or grain sorghum. Naturally, that all depends on growing season conditions but at least now, spring planted crops stand a much better chance of producing a crop than just a week ago.
Next week, back to no-till and crop rotations unless something else comes up.