A major change in many businesses over the last twenty years was an inventory concept termed “just in time.” Instead of maintaining a large inventory of parts and products, the idea was to keep just what you need and have what you are going to need ordered, shipped, and delivered just in time. The transportation and communications infrastructure developed with the advent of computers made this possible. Problems arise when something unpredictable happens; earthquakes and tsunamis in Asia or extreme weather here. “Just in Time” is what we are looking at for this year’s wheat crop.
The snow and rain of the last week or two has certainly helped the wheat crop. Much of the area received from one half to almost one inch of moisture. However in our area we are entering year three of extreme drought and abnormally high temperatures. So how is this different than our usual dry cycles? We are essentially out of subsoil moisture which could often carry a wheat crop through dry conditions. What are the chances for an average to above average wheat crop? The outlook is pretty good if Mother Nature can deliver “just in time” and temperatures are moderate.
Please consider that the following scenario is based upon normal, not well-above normal temperatures. If we receive average precipitation from now through wheat maturity, an average to slightly above average crop is likely. This means 2” for March, 2.4” for April, 4” for May, and 4” for June. That would equal approximately 13”. More would be nice, especially for planting spring row crops but if rainfall would be well above normal, the disease and insect pressure could actually pressure yields downward and/or significantly increase input costs. One final part to this puzzle is that in the Great Bend area we are already over the monthly average and the month is only half over.
The other climate factor that would help the wheat crop is temperatures. If it breaks dormancy and develops too early, it leaves wheat vulnerable to a late freeze, especially if we are dry. The best thing for producers to do now is evaluate the yield potential of the crop and weed pressure. Based on that, choices need to be made regarding proper fertility and weed control. While it is tempting to what to cut back on nitrogen under present conditions, the need for adequate nitrogen is actually greater under adverse, not good conditions.
While conditions aren’t great, overall the wheat is in better condition here than it was a year ago. Contrary to what the wheat market did after this rain, we have a long way to go. Fortunately, the crop still has seven lives left.