I have been accused of being a bit of a pessimist from time to time. From an early age, many teachers and professors drilled into my head to "Hope for the best and prepare for the worst." If you have read these columns over the last few months I tried to objectively lay out what options were available, depending on the weather. My prognosis was that this was going to be one of those summers that we haven’t experienced in a long, long time and that it was too risky for dryland double cropping and that many of the full season dryland crops were in trouble. Unfortunately that prediction looks to be true. So where can we go from here and what is likely to happen?
• The two week outlook from the Climate Prediction Center is for temperatures well-above normal and precipitation well below normal.
• The Drought Monitor from UNL places much of Southwest and South Central Kansas as ranging from moderate to exceptional drought. This means it will take a lot of rain to make any real difference and for dryland corn it is likely too late.
• Last week I said dryland corn needed rain and a lot, now. Well, it didn’t really rain and entire fields have fired and look like they were dried in an oven. Many farmers have tried cutting losses and chopped or ensiled their dryland corn leaving only enough strips of corn in the field for the insurance adjuster. It’s probably not very good silage but at least the ensiling process may lower nitrate levels a bit. The big advantage to this is if it does start raining, the soil can store moisture for fall planted wheat as long as intensive tillage is avoided.
• Irrigated corn is from seven to ten days later than usual in tasseling and silking due to delayed planting and overall cool conditions this spring. So while the crop is there, a great deal of water is being pumped to maintain the crop and yields won’t be bin busting.
• Dryland soybeans, full season and double-cropped are hurting but still hold a glimmer of hope since they are indeterminate in growth habit. One option for these fields is, with adequate height, using the soybeans for forage. In fact, soybeans were more valuable as a forage crop than as an oilseed for much of the history of the United States. he can be hayed but probably the most efficient way to utilize the forage is through grazing. As always you need to know what herbicides were used and what the label restrictions are for grazing.
• Under dryland conditions, unless the weather changes, trying to double-crop wheat this fall looks like a terrible idea. Last year was hard, but this year could make conditions in the fall of 2010 look like a monsoon.
• Sometimes the best course of action is to wait and do nothing. Other than controlling weeds chemically when necessary, this may be one year when doing nothing and waiting is a good idea.
• Finally, more and more grasshopper damage is showing up, especially on stressed dryland plants.