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Drought update and fall harvest
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The past week saw parts of the area receive several significant rains. Rains after this last Tuesday don’t appear in the calculations of the weekly Drought Monitor Update. The last update indicates that except for sliver of southern Barton County, from Barton County north the area is rated as Abnormally Dry. Directly south conditions are considered in Moderate Drought. This is a big positive step compared too several weeks ago. As always this is a general rating and individual areas may be wetter or drier. And the recent rains not included in this report have left areas north of Great Bend with wet fields. With the fairly regular chance of rain over the next week combined with moderate to cool temperatures, the start of the 2015 wheat crops looks promising. Now what about our fall crops – corn, soybeans, and grain sorghum, especially with the low night temperatures of the last few days?
• Corn – While not looking at a record harvest, the crop looks good overall. There were some problems with corn that pollinated during high night temperatures combined with low humidities but overall both dryland and irrigated yields and quality are good. The relatively cool temperatures early in the summer with later planting of many fields has meant a later than normal harvest presenting some challenges for producers wanting to go back to wheat.
• Soybeans – Full-season irrigated production looks good overall. Double-cropped irrigated soybeans suffered from the periods of excessive heat combined with soil moisture stress and appear quite variable. Dryland soybean fields are all over the map depending on rainfall and soil type. Soybeans on sandier soils were most impacted by the hot, dry conditions and in some fields plants desiccated and died. Just to make things a little worse, the temperatures over the last several nights, while not at freezing, were cold enough to tell plants to quit developing seed and finish, costing some yield.
• Grain sorghum – Depending on when you planted and the rains a field received, a producer is extremely pleased or extremely nervous. As you look around the area, fields range from ready, or almost ready, to cut to just starting to bloom. If the field is starting to turn, the cold night temperatures won’t help but there should be a crop. Those fields just blooming or with almost totally green seed probably need a miracle to produce a grain crop. Those fields between just blooming and deep color change are at risk from an early frost, especially the further they are from staring to turn seed color. Fields further along should produce a grain crop but may suffer from lower test weights and yields. What we end up with depends on the date of the first hard frost and this early blast of cold weather doesn’t necessarily mean an early hard freeze. Last fall some of the area produced exceptionally high yields and parts that missed the rain were exceptionally poor or nonexistent. Overall, the area is looking at an “okay” grain sorghum crop.
One last item about grain sorghum. It is possible to salvage some late sorghum fields through ensiling, green chopping, or with a little luck as hay but silage is usually the best choice.
Dr. Victor L. Martin is the agriculture instructor/coordinator for Barton Community College. He can be reached at 620-792-9207, ext. 207.