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Catching up on things
Dr. Victor Martin

As of Aug. 31 the areas of abnormally dry and moderate drought are slightly expanding into much of the western two-thirds of the state. Recent rains aren’t included. All of Barton county is rated abnormally dry with the northeast corner in moderate drought. Corn harvest is starting, milo is turning color and patches of dryland soybeans are losing leaves and turning color. The rain forecasted for this week should help the milo a bit which is good and may help the dryland beans, however, the long range doesn’t hold much help for summer crops or preparing to plant wheat. The six to ten-day outlook (Sept. 7 to 11) indicates more above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation. However, we are heading into the drier time of year so we will have to wait and see. The eight to 14-day outlook (Sept. 9 to 15) indicates more of the same.  Good for getting mature crops off fields but not for alfalfa or wheat planting. Today, in honor of Labor Day weekend, let’s take a breather and play some catchup.

First, what do the long range forecasts tell us about this fall. The 30-day outlook for September indicates equal chances for above or below normal precipitation. Average highs back off into the 80 degree range in September and average precipitation is in the 2 to 2.5-inch rain and wheat farmers could certainly use more to establish wheat. For the period of October through December the outlook is for above normal temperatures and slightly below normal to below normal precipitation. Not good news as precipitation averages decrease these months to around an inch. On the positive side this is an outlook and not a hard and fast prediction. Also as we all know precipitation isn’t uniform and some areas will receive more.

Next, it pays to see if an El Nino or La Nina is predicted. Currently there is a 70% chance of a La Nina building. What does this mean for us here in Kansas? Well, it depends. For much of the Corn Belt it often means cooler, wetter weather. For the southern portion of the U.S. it often means drier weather. We in Kansas are kind of in between so it could mean either and it depends on how strong it is. Something to pay attention to.

We don’t grow much winter canola in this area for a variety of reasons and hopefully through improved breeding and cultural techniques it can one day become a good, profitable dryland rotational crop. In fact, for canola in our area, the time is quite near. This last year, in spite of the late cold weather and extremes, the canola in the South Central region and around Manhattan had a good year, not only in terms of yield but price. It’s probably still dicey as a major crop here but as varieties improves, it will be worth considering.

One last thing, cover crops are drawing more and more attention, even in drier areas as they protect the soil from erosion, help with weed control, provide organic matter and nutrients to the soil, and can make good to excellent grazing. More area producers are using them over winter for these reasons and the use is increasing.

Dr. Victor L. Martin is the agriculture instructor/coordinator for Barton Community College. He can be reached at 620-792-9207, ext. 207, or