While not avoiding this topic, it seemed smart to wait and see how fall harvest and planting progressed. However, as you read this, the area is experiencing early summer, not mid-fall temperatures. First let’s look at fall yields followed by winter wheat planting.
• Corn – Overall, rainfall timing was great for both dryland and irrigated corn resulting in very good to excellent yields for both. The late summer heat helped mature the crop after a cool start and later than hoped for planting. However, corn harvest progress was delayed by slow grain dry down due to late development, exacerbated by periods of cool temperatures and moisture. Remember, the progress of corn development is a function of heat accumulation.
• Soybean – Dryland yields aren’t bad and some have been quite good while most irrigated yields have been good and some fields excellent but many producers aren’t as happy as they were last year. The reason is simple. While corn grain development and rainfall synched together pretty well and the late summer heat speed maturation that wasn’t the case for soybean. Soybean plants were developing seed when the dry, hot pattern arrived and even though they made good use of the moisture, yields were capped by late season conditions. It was still a good year for most growing soybeans.
• Grain sorghum – Satisfaction with the crop is all over the place and is a function of when producers were able to plant, when rainfall arrived, and what stage the crop was at when the rainfall stopped and the light frost hit in September. Overall, yields where the crop was able to finish were okay to good but nowhere near as high as many in the eastern part of the area experienced last year. Some fields, in fact more than a few, where cut and removed as forage, either as silage or hay. Not an incredible sorghum year but not a train wreck either. It is disappointing to some as in anticipation of a dry year and based on last year’s grain sorghum yields, they increased their sorghum acreage at the expense of corn.
• Hay and forage crops – These crops had a good year compared to the last few. Yields were acceptable to very good with the summer rains and fairly moderate temperatures. The problem for many was drying down and baling the crop in a timely manner and not experiencing quality and crop loss due to rainfall after swathing.
• Wheat – Fall wheat looks pretty good to excellent. Some timely rains greatly helped germination and emergence and the open fall thus far with moderate temperatures have aided establishment and tillering. Temperatures this weekend have been warmer than ideal but the return of seasonal highs will help. Those producers, many sand farmers, planted early and have very good, well-tillered stands. Planting was hindered by the late harvest of fall crops and those fields a good open fall to overcome the late start. But all in all wheat is off to a good start.
• The Drought – Most of the area north of the Stafford County line is rated “Abnormally Dry” while to the south it is classified as in “Moderate Dry.”