By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Crossing the finish line
Dr. Victor Martin

First, the Drought Monitor Report as of Aug. 20 shows basically the same situation as last week since it doesn’t include recent rains. The forecast is for average temperatures this week and some small chances for precipitation. Today’s column examines the outlook for our summer row crops and the establishment of the 2020 wheat crop after the challenges of the last year. Weather is key for what will happen.

The CPD (Climate Prediction Center) issues long-range weather predictions. The one-month outlook for Kansas call for equal chances for above or below normal temperatures and precipitation with the northwest corner of the state trending towards above normal rainfall. When you examine the ninety-day outlook, the temperature outlook for the whole continental U.S. and Alaska is for above normal temperatures and equal chances for above or below normal precipitation for Kansas and much of the country. Keep in mind this doesn’t mean the area won’t experience cool temperatures or even an early frost. Normal precipitation for our area is approximately two inches during September and October and one inch for November. The average date of the first frost is Oct. 19th. So, what is the outlook for our summer row crops?

• Corn – With an average frost date and normal temperatures, corn in the area should finish. Some fields were tasseling and silking in early August and will be pushed to physiologically mature but should make it. Yields will likely vary greatly in the area and some field have suffered from trying to pollinate and develop kernels during stress conditions. Harvest time will vary also. Some fields should be ready to cut at the typical time but it is likely harvest will drag out with later planted corn as drydown will be slowed by lower temperatures and less sunlight. Silage, where practical might be a good alternative for some. Planting wheat following corn could be a challenge and minimizing/eliminating tillage may be essential.

• Grain sorghum (milo) – Of all the traditional summer crops, milo is at the greatest disadvantage. Fields in the area are all over the place in terms of development – from seed starting to turn color to fields not even in the boot stage. K-State Research from the 1980s and 1990s indicates that on average if a field has bloomed by Aug. 30th, there is a 90 percent chance it will finish. However, again, as drydown is pushed further into the fall, harvest will likely be a long, drawn out process. Trying to follow milo with wheat will be more of a challenge than after wheat or soybeans. Without a hard frost to kill milo, spraying milo to kill it or killing it with tillage will be necessary. Tillage is the least desirable option as milo will use soil moisture longer than corn or soybeans and even with normal precipitation; soil moisture will be at a premium.

• Soybeans – In a few words, they are what they are. Soybeans flowering is keyed by increasing night length. Their maturation is more temperature sensitive than for corn or milo. If temperatures dip to around 40 degrees at night, they are typically done. Again, planting wheat in a timely manner could be a challenge but likely less so than for milo. Advantages include plants that will be dead and less residue to cope with. No-till planting is a good option for wheat here.

• Yields – Yields look to be all over the place for our summer crops. We will know when the crop is in the bin. Quality will likely also be all over the place.

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