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The last two months have been busy
Dr. Victor Martin

The Drought Monitor is essentially unchanged except that extreme drought conditions are moving into further into Northwest Kansas. The six to ten-day outlook (March 1 to 5) indicates normal to slightly below normal temperatures and above normal precipitation outlook. The eight to 14 day outlook (March 3 to March 9) indicates above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation for Northwest Kansas with the eastern half of the state above normal with our area on the border between slightly above average to average. Well, the Polar Vortex is behind us and while it’s too early to definitively say, soil temperatures never went to the low teens or single digits at the two inch soils depth so there is justifiable hope that growing points should have weathered the cold in our area. Time will tell.

A great deal has happened since Christmas, so today a brief review of items since the first of the year.

• Probably for many in agriculture out here, the Polar Vortex was the most newsworthy event. It’s impossible, unless you were on a desert island to not know of its impacts in the middle of the country, on the power grid and energy supplies. It also had major impacts on ag. For many this is the start of calving season in the Great Plains and the weather was definitely a challenge. We will have to see what morbidity rates for claves were to gauge the impact on supply. The above ground portion of the wheat crop was likely killed off in areas, especially where there was little snow cover. We have to wait to see if growing points were destroyed. Soil temperatures across reporting stations appeared to stay above the low teens which helps. We should have a pretty good idea by mid-March.

• With a new administration in Washington comes a new Secretary of Agriculture – Tom Vilsack. Vilsack served in this capacity during the entire Obama Administration. He was approved by a vote of 92 – 7. Progressives are concerned he is too vested in corporate agriculture and are concerned about family farms. Conservatives are concerned he is too focused on new environmental regulations and Climate Change. Conservative are also concerned with the EPA and Department of the Interior imposing new, more stringent environmental regulations. Naturally, progressives are concerned the administration won’t go far enough.

• Industrial Hemp commercial production is slowly moving forward across the county and this year Kansas is awarding commercial licenses. Infrastructure and production information are still lacking but slowly ramping up. More work, primarily by private industry is investing more energy in hemp fiber, as opposed to CBD oil, for producers.

• Export demand is strong for major commodities with China a major player. Wheat, corn, milo, and soybean prices are much, much stronger than a year ago. However, input prices for inputs (fuel, fertilizer, etc.) are also increasing.

• Finally, the USDA planting intentions report indicates increase corn and soybean acres and production as a result of more bullish prices reflecting stocks and projected demand.

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