Halloween is a scant four days away. The 2013 summer cropping season is finally close to wrapping up and the 2015 wheat crop is at mostly planted. What happened or more precisely why did it happen? Before starting it’s helpful to keep in mind several specifics. First, precipitation amounts and distribution improved from west to east in the area. Second, when crops were planted played a major role in yields as did soil type, fertility, tillage and other factors. Third, these comments are describing the area in general.
• Corn – Even with irrigation, corn yields suffered dramatically during 2011 and 2012. This year with more “normal” temperatures and rains during grainfill for much of the corn, irrigated corn yields rebounded nicely. While harvest was later than normal, the unusually hot conditions in September prevented the harvest from being even later. Dryland yields were reported from under 50 bushels/acre to well over 100 depending on planting date, soil type and location. Earlier planted corn appeared to suffer the most before the late July rains. But compared to last year it was a bumper crop.
• Soybeans – Dryland soybeans benefitted from the mid-summer rains and yields ranged from fair to excellent overall. Irrigated production was good to excellent. Double-cropped fields were more variable due to the late wheat harvest.
• Grain sorghum – While there was some significant lodging of the crop, overall this was a bumper crop for grain sorghum both in terms of bushels per acre and acres planted. Concerns over late planting and lagging development with a cool July and August were allayed with the hot conditions of September. Yield reports, especially in the eastern part of the county have indicated some fields with yields in the 140 to 160 bushel range.
• Alfalfa and feed crops – The first cutting of alfalfa was delayed with the late start to spring and late freezing temperatures. Overall, while not record setting, total tonnage for the year was good. Feed crop yields where properly fertilized and managed were overall good to excellent.
• Wheat – The 2014 crop, even with later planting after summer crops and rain delays is off to a very good start. Most of the acreage has good to excellent soil moisture and unless weather turns unseasonable cool, has more than adequate time to set tillers. The wheat just planted over the last ten days may set fewer tillers with the forecast for slightly below to below normal temperatures in the area. However, late planted wheat still has more than adequate time to establish. On the plus side, the hard freeze helps with insect control and the seasonal to cool temperatures will reduce evaporative demand.
How did we end of an overall good summer cropping season? The unusual weather pattern allowed most dryland crops to hang on until significant rains came. Due to delayed development the rains were more beneficial than in a typical year when corn grain development would have progressed much further. Even the unusually hot September conditions worked out well in drying down corn grain and pushing sorghum development. And one factor not thought about is
the improved genetics, especially in corn allowing for a greater ability to withstand adverse conditions.