The past week brought more precipitation and as this column is being written, Thursday morning, more is expected. Where does that leave the area in terms of the upcoming wheat harvest and our summer crops?
• First the release of the May 26, U.S. Drought Monitor indicates this entire area, and most of the Eastern two-thirds of the state are officially no longer even abnormally dry. Several counties in Western Kansas are in the lowest drought category (Moderate Drought) while approximately 25 counties are all or partly classified as Abnormally Dry. This doesn’t include any rain that fell after May 26th. To say the least this is quite a change. The closest areas of a severe or greater drought rating are west of the Rocky Mountains. For the immediate future, surface waters and subsoil moisture are adequate to excessive and in some areas (the Lower Arkansas basin) groundwater recharge should be starting.
• Currently NOAA has identified a weak and likely growing El Nino off the western coast of South America and have changed the summer forecast for our area to above normal precipitation and average to below average temperatures. While many are becoming tired and frustrated with the rain, this would be exactly what the state needs.
• Wheat – While the cool, wet weather has slowed planting progress of summer crops and hay harvest, these conditions allowed much of the wheat in the area to realize what yield potential was present after a rough fall, winter, and early spring. These conditions also allow the wheat to mature instead of dying off prematurely due to heat and dry conditions. The down side is the onset of leaf diseases favored under these conditions. However as long as diseases avoid the flag leaf, the yield loss should be minimal. A larger concern for some is the saturated soils and severe weather (winds and hail) damaging the wheat and causing lodging. Recent weather has caused some lodging, especially south and east of Barton County. Some of the wheat may be able to resume an upright position, some won’t and it will depend on the cause of the lodging and growth stage of the wheat. Finally, wheat in some low lying areas has died due to saturated soils.
• As wheat matures and if it doesn’t dry out, being able to get into fields without ruining soil structure or getting stuck could be a concern as well as mature wheat sprouting in the head if this weather pattern continues. We are aren’t there yet although wheat is starting to turn.
• Soybean and grain sorghum – Soil moisture will help these crops establish themselves. Sorghum isn’t in the ground yet and few soybeans are. Soybeans are much more sensitive to saturated soils than grain crops. The planting window for these crops is pretty wide and there is adequate time to plant.
• Corn – Planting was delayed by weather but essentially 100% of the crop is in the ground with most of it up. The two days of fairly sunny weather helped green up the corn markedly. Some has been lost in low spots and some stunted by wet cool conditions but relatively little. The crop is behind but can easily catch up when temperatures warm. Some corn is exhibiting phosphorus deficiency symptoms but heat and sun should correct that problem.