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Farmers catching up
Dr. Victor Martin

The Drought Monitor, as of this past Tuesday, shows the pattern of last week intensifying with extreme and severe drought encompassing much of Northwest and Southwest Kansas. Most of Barton, Stafford, Pawnee, Rice, and Reno Counties are still in moderate drought. This doesn’t include the rain and snow that fell this last week. For some it should be enough to ease back from moderate drought to abnormally dry but not to eliminate soil moisture concerns for most. However, with the forecasted seasonal temperatures, it should in many places help the established wheat and help the thin and not yet germinated wheat a fair amount. While much of the area received decent rains, it was still a bit spotty as was the snow in the area as snowfall totals ranged from a trace to around five inches.

The six to ten-day outlook (Dec. 1 to 5) indicates normal to below normal temperatures for the state. Precipitation should be below normal and remember normal isn’t much in December. The eight to 14 day outlook (Dec. 3 to 9) indicates normal to above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation. The La Nina effects appear to be strengthening. Now that the 2021 wheat crop is in the ground and the fall 2020 harvest are essentially complete, producers can now take it easy. Right? Wrong. Maybe decades ago this may have been true but not today. Here’s a partial list of what many producers are up to in 2020.

• Many haven’t sold their 2020 harvest or at least parts of it. This means watching the markets and looking for the price or prices they want and having a crystal ball to see where the markets are headed. There are also many involved in various tools to minimize risks and lock in prices.

• For many it may be an opportunity to price and commit a percentage of their 2021 harvest and forward contract. Again this takes persistence, patience, figuring costs of production, and a crystal ball to not over contract.

• It’s also a time to consider locking in input prices if the price is right. Or waiting if you think prices will improve. Typically, many inputs are cheaper now during the “offseason” for field work. And many companies offer discounts for placing orders early for items such as seed.  This leads to the next point.

• It’s now time to start thinking about what to plant and what acreage to devote to it in 2021. Wheat is already determined but for crops such as corn, soybeans, and grain sorghum, farmers need to once again get out their crystal ball and by looking at the previous bullet points, grain stocks, markets, international cropping data, and other factors to determine what and how much to plant.  

• It’s also a good time to consider soil testing. For nutrients, except for nitrogen and sulfur which should be sampled as close to planting as possible, producers should sample at approximately the same time each year. If soils haven’t been sampled for a year or two, it is time for at least bulk soil sampling. It’s made easier to determine what you need when you have determined you crop acreages and realistic yield goals.

• Finally, producers should keep an eye on their wheat, especially if we stay dry and are warm, to scout for potential problems.

Naturally there’s more but you hopefully get the idea.