There is a lot of activity over the next few months in the area involving agriculture. Before we get to that, a comment is in order regarding the weather. Long-range modeling seems to indicate at least a temporary change in the weather pattern that has characterized winter so far. Unsettled weather is likely at least for the next 10 to 14 days. While not something we appreciate in terms of temperatures and travel plans, it indicates a strong possibility of good moisture and cooler temperatures. This and the rain last week couldn’t have come at a better time for the 2012 wheat crop. The warm, dry January conditions had significantly depleted topsoil moisture. Another important consideration is the warm temperatures during the winter so far.
One of the bigger threats to wheat occurs when it breaks dormancy and joints early. At jointing the growing point is at or above the soils surface. This leaves the plant vulnerable to freeze damage or winterkill. Most assume that winter kill is worst during the coldest part of winter but the most severe damage typically results from late winter/early spring freezes after the wheat is actively growing. This potential for damage is made worse when wheat takes off too early and often combined with thin stands. Active wheat growth in the spring is triggered by two factors, increasing day length and temperature. Day length doesn’t vary from year to year but temperatures can. That is what happened during the 2007 Easter Freeze. A great deal of wheat in south central Kansas was actually in or near boot stage due to the open, wet winter. The temperatures in the mid-20s devastated the crop. So while everyone is ready for spring this change back to normal is just what we needed. One positive for area wheat farmers was the ability to topdress wheat over the last several weeks.
A brief word is in order about upcoming events. The Barton County Farm Bureau is sponsoring its annual Ag Safety Day on Wednesday, February 22 at the College. This is an excellent opportunity to make sure our young people in agriculture is aware of the risks inherent in farming and driving as well as how to minimize those risks. This area of agriculture takes on added emphasis with the proposed work changes being proposed by Washington regarding children working on family farm operations. The Farm Bureau earns well-deserved recognition for this event. It’s a bit early now but please take a moment to reserve the dates of April 11–13 for the Farm and ranch Expo. It promises to be a great event with something for everyone, not just farmers and ranchers. There is more going on and everyone should be encouraged to check with the local extension office and the KSRE website.
Dr. Victor L. Martin is the agriculture instructor/coordinator for Barton Community College. He can be reached at 620-792-9207, ext. 207.