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The Drought Is Over Right?
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We all know the answer to the title of this article is no. However, the reaction of some media outside of Kansas and other drought stricken areas implied that at the very least the worst is over. While that isn’t true, things are a bit better. Our area has moved from the worst rating, exceptional, to the second worst rating, extreme. This is true of much of central Kansas. Much of the eastern third of the state has moved to severe and an area around Kansas City is all the way up to just being moderate. Unfortunately, much of the west and northwest missed a great deal of the recent moisture and remains in the exceptional range.
This relative increase in soil moisture was found by the soil science class at Barton the week before spring break. Using soil probes, the soil sampled in wheat fields near the college was found to have moisture down to a depth of 8 to 10 inches. That is a substantial improvement in the last month. While not likely enough soil moisture to produce a wheat crop, it buys time for more precipitation to keep wheat progressing. As stated in an earlier column, if we receive average rainfall from now through harvest and weather isn’t too warm and windy, there is a good chance for an average wheat crop. If temperatures are well-above normal, then these chances diminish.
If you drive around the area, the 2013 wheat crop is all over the place in terms of development and condition. Overall the crop is in decent shape, especially if you factor in the weather over the last year. Some is extremely thin with spotty germination and some doesn’t appear to have tillered well. And today is March 24, so the wheat is a behind the normal long-term average in terms of development. With the freezing temperatures that keep popping up, having the growing point below the surface is definitely a good thing. It’s too early to tell if lagging development is good or bad but it does reduce the risk of damage from a late freeze.
For summer row crops, especially corn, if we can conserve the moisture present the crop can be established and get off to a decent start. The same is true for perennial grasses and alfalfa; enough moisture to get off to decent start. So the key is more and timely precipitation. Will that happen?
On the plus side compared to the last several years, it appears that the patterns have shifted enough to allow storm systems from the Pacific Coast to track favorably and to tap into Gulf moisture. This should especially help the eastern half of the state and benefit our area. The outlook isn’t quite as bright for western Kansas, especially the northwest corner. If the predicted El Niño materializes, the state stands an excellent chance of well above average precipitation and recharge of soil moisture. The latest models still indicate better precipitation this year than last and a decent chance of above normal in 2014. Keep your fingers crossed.