As this is written, the Drought Monitor report hasn’t been released yet. However, it shouldn’t have changed much from last week. The six to ten-day outlook (April 26 to 30) indicates above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation which should help with corn planting. The eight to 14 day outlook (April 28 to May 4) indicates normal precipitation and temperatures. The normal temperatures should help the wheat which doesn’t need above normal temperature as it moves to heading and flowering. The below freezing temps this last week may some nervous as wheat had jointed with the head above the ground. The snow helped on Tuesday morning and the sunshine helped. Wednesday morning saw temperatures drop into the mid-twenties in our area. Did it hurt the wheat? If it did the damage to the developing head should be apparent when examining stems. Hopefully it wasn’t cold enough, long enough to do much damage.
Today, we have all noticed our “crazy” weather. Just how crazy is it? Let’s take a look and keep in mind this is data from reporting stations throughout the state. We will focus on Barton County
• One thing to keep in mind is that the “average” for weather changes when they are reporting average rainfall or temperature, etc. It’s a 30 year average that changes every 30 years. Through last year, the average was calculated for the years 1981 through 2010. This year the averages changed to 1991 to 2010.
• How has our precipitation fared? For January, we were 0.30 inches over normal, for February 0.72 inches below normal, and for March 2.37 inches above. For April so far we are in a deficit of around two inches so overall, we are about normal.
• The average date of our last temperatures below 32 degrees is approximately April 20-22 above the river and April 18-20 below the river so the freezing temperature weren’t unusual. And it pays to remember the 95% frost free date here is about the end of April.
• How about snow. While not common, it’s also not unusual to have snow in April. In fact, several years ago, there was snow on the ground in early May. And while we think of snow as more common during winter, many of the heaviest snowfalls occur in March.
• Usually by mid-April the average soil temperatures at the two-inch depth should be around 55 degrees or so. The nearest reporting station south of St. John indicted the seven day average as 49. So we are a bit cooler.
How has this affected cropping so far? Wheat is behind a bit developmentally compared to what we expect. Which was a good thing with these cold temperatures. This doesn’t necessarily mean a later than normal harvest as conditions can change rapidly. Corn planting is behind but it isn’t time to panic yet. Overall, fieldwork is piling up, especially north of the river, as producers wait for fields to dry out enough. Finally, while we talk about normal and average weather those two terms are becoming hard to define.
Dr. Victor L. Martin is the agriculture instructor/coordinator for Barton Community College. He can be reached at 620-792-9207, ext. 207.