After the rains this past weekend, the Drought Monitor shows marked improvement for the western half of the state. While the southwest corner of the state still shows an area of moderate and severe drought surrounded by an abnormally dry area, the area has shrunk and the area around Ford County isn’t even listed as abnormally dry. The abnormally dry area in the northwest has shrunk as has the area in South Central Kansas. Barton and Pawnee Counties are out of dry conditions and Stafford County has improved to abnormally dry. This greatly helps protect the 2020 wheat crop. However, there is little precipitation in the forecast. The best scenario is for seasonal temperatures. With the start of a new year, let’s discuss some possible New Year’s resolutions for agriculture.
• Assess the nutrient status of fields prior to planting this spring. At the least this involves determining how much nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) were removed with the 2019 harvest. Better still is a standard soil test for pH, base saturation, P, K, and especially for corn, zinc if one hasn’t been done in a while. Grid sampling may be too expensive or unnecessary, depending on your soil type and topography. However, if a producer doesn’t have a baseline to work from, at least a bulk sample would help. For corn and sorghum, a profile N-test close to planting is helpful, especially with the heavy rains of the last year. And especially on sandier soils, a sulfate-sulfur test in late March/early April for corn, milo, beans, and alfalfa is recommended. The final piece to the puzzle is determining realistic yield goals and using that to determine crop nutrient needs. As a side note, with increasing energy prices, it might be wise to lock in fertilizer prices if not already done.
• Review weed control by field from the past year, especially glyphosate resistant weeds. For problem fields, develop a weed control strategy that minimizes the need for tillage. During this relative downtime homework should be done on developing weed control strategies with different modes of actions. This won’t be cheap but is necessary for obvious reasons. K-State Research and Extension publishes and annual weed control guide to help (https://www.bookstore.ksre.ksu.edu/Item.aspx?catId=236&pubId=19360) and visit with your local dealer/agronomist. • If a producer has wheat in the ground, soon it will be time to evaluate stand status and yield potential. Tillers may have initiated that still are below the ground so patience is required. From this, determine nitrogen needs. On sandier soils, it wouldn’t hurt to look at chloride and sulfur levels as it’s not too late to address. As we get into mid to late February, start scouting for insects such as cutworm and armyworm, especially if wheat is failing to green up. Examine current weed pressure as well as field weed history to determine weed control measures. Keep in mind rotational restrictions for potential planting restrictions.
• And while many have already selected hybrids/varieties for the 2020 year, it doesn’t hurt to look over results for the last several years and consider trying some acreage of potential new varieties/hybrids.
Dr. Victor L. Martin is the agriculture instructor/coordinator for Barton Community College. He can be reached at 620-792-9207, ext. 207.