Speak with many older farmers and almost all of them mention how unusual this fall’s weather has been. Since this is Kansas, most of us consider unusual weather usual, however, this year’s fall weather has been extreme so far. How extreme has it been and potentially mean for crop and livestock producers?
This depends on where you live in the state. For our immediate area, precipitation has been hard to come by the last three months. Much of the state is in the abnormally dry category and from our area moving NW in moderate drought. The recent rains which this area mostly missed should help relieve some of this pressure.
The biggest abnormality has been the temperature. With the exception of a chilly day or two, the area has experienced air temperatures much above normal. For September, the Hutchinson area’s average temperature was more than five degrees above the average. Another important factor to consider is the first frost date. November first is a week from today and the forecast doesn’t indicate a frost soon. The average date of the first frost, not killing freeze, is around October 20th.
A strong El Nino is supposed to bring the area a decent chance of above average precipitation but the forecast indicates the largest increases for south of our area and California. It pays to remember that for this area from December through February, even two times our normal precipitation would only add a little over three inches of precipitation. What does all this potentially mean for the area?
• Wheat emergence and growth are spotty and slow. Tillering, yield potential, are being negatively affected by dry soil conditions in combination with warm soil and air temperatures.
• On the plus side, the warm dry conditions definitely helped mature and dry drown the corn and sorghum crops. The weather also allowed hay, what there was, to be baled in good condition.
• Farmers are cautioned to plant using the Hessian fly free date to minimize the chance of infestations. This is based on the average frost date which the area is already a week past. Also, insects in general are more abundant and active. This increases the risk of direct damage due to insect feeding and indirect damage via disease transmission, Barley Yellow Dwarf for example. Livestock are under pressure from insects until the area has that first hard freeze.
• If temperatures stay above average, wheat faces increased insect feeding earlier in the late winter/early spring. This is made worse by drought stressed plants.
• The warm weather increases evaporative moisture loss from the soil and increased plant transpiration. These factors put further pressure on soil moisture.
• Dry soils and water stressed roots systems leave winter wheat much more susceptible to freeze damage and winterkill. Only a very courageous farmer would have even thought about winter canola in the area.
Finally, this fall has been miserable for many suffering from allergies. While we may complain about cold weather especially, that cold is extremely important for our agricultural systems.