It’s pretty hard not to notice that summer came hard and fast this year. After several years of what for Kansas were cool, wet summers, Mother Nature has reminded us of what our summers can involve. After a brief respite, we are back under drought conditions and as I write this on July 7, there is a slight chance of rain with 100° temps back by Sunday. So where are we cropwise as we enter July?
• Corn, dryland and irrigated, is not only suffering through very hot and dry conditions but it’s late. Typically by now, corn is at or very close to tasseling and silking. Late planting and cool conditions put the crop behind. For dryland corn you can add in lack of moisture. Even with irrigation, the weather is hurting yield, especially when the winds are added into the heat and low humidities. Many dryland fields are burning up and unless conditions improve dramatically, many fields won’t even make silage or be fit for grazing.
• Soybeans are also behind but their growth habit allows for a bit more hope. Dryland soybeans, especially double-cropped, are in big trouble as they haven’t established root systems. They need rain now and lots of it. It is possible to salvage something if adequate growth allows for forage production. This year has reminded all of us of the risk involved in dryland soybean production in our part of the world after a period of good years. On the bright side, any soybean harvest is worth something with current prices.
• Double-cropped and full season grain sorghum are hurting but stand a chance if things change now. Milo can hang on until conditions improve up to a point, but even it needs water. What the crop needs is to bloom by mid-August to have a good chance of maturing before a frost.
• Wheat harvest was completed in rapid fashion and initial tillage pretty much completed. Fortunately there is plenty of time for soil moisture buildup. The key for producers will be to maintain the moisture that falls on fallow fields.
• Conditions are fantastic for grasshoppers and damage is showing up in farmer fields and flowerbeds. Damage isn’t severe as of now.
• Are there any positives with this kind of weather? Weeds in alfalfa aren’t bad. Weeds overall should be easy to manage in fallow ground until it decides to rain again. Plant diseases of all kinds that rely on humidity are scarce.
• As of the time I am writing this the projections aren’t great in terms of heat and rainfall. Even with normal temps and precipitation for the rest of the summer, dryland crops will continue to hurt.
• Finally, July is fair time in Kansas and hundreds of 4-Hers have or will be getting ready to display not only what they have produced but what they have learned. Some will get to move on to the State Fair in September, some won’t, but all learn and grow from the experience. The wonderful aspect of 4-H is that it provides opportunities for growth not only in knowledge but in terms of maturity and emotional growth as they go through the process of judging and evaluation.