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Preparing for spring 2019
Dr. Victor Martin

Spring is finally here both meteorologically and astronomically. And it is finally starting to feel like spring. This spring is certainly much different from the last few for Kansas. Instead of dry and reasonably warm following a dry winter, much of Kansas is wet, very wet. The last 30 days or so have been cold, very cold compared to the long-term average. Before moving on, however, while crop and livestock producers are challenged in Kansas, it is nothing compared to the disaster faced by producers in Nebraska, much of Iowa, and parts of Missouri. These areas will likely deal with the effects of the bomb cyclone for over a year. Today though, let’s briefly discuss what producers are facing here this spring.

• Spring calving has been rough, very rough for many cow-calf producers. Most calving now aim for late winter/early spring. While they anticipate some challenging weather, it is seldom what was experienced this past month. Producers want death loss as low as possible, hopefully no more than one to two percent. This year’s mortality is far above that for many and some have reported well over 20 percent or higher. This is a huge financial hit for many. And you can just easily produce new calves.

• Normally by now, wheat producers have had time to evaluate their wheat after winter. Typically, topdressing wheat with nitrogen and applying appropriate herbicides would be close to finished. We normally assume wheat will have “jointed” here by mid- to late- March (growing point above the ground) with heading about six weeks from now. Wheat is greening up and starting to grow, however, it is unlikely any has jointed. It appears to be a late crop but again if conditions change, it may not be terribly late. Hopefully, it is late since warm/hot conditions would further reduce yield. It’s much too early to tell but unless conditions are perfect, weather and pest pressure, it is like to be another subpar crop for the state with all the late planted/emerged wheat.

• Grain sorghum and soybean producers are still fine; however, the projected precipitation may delay them also.

• Corn producers are likely in the biggest bind regarding timey planting. Ideally, dryland corn planting should start here around mid-April, irrigated the third week. With all the prep work needing done, this could be a challenge, again with the projected forecast for above normal rainfall. A compounding factor is cool soil temperatures but that could change greatly in a month.

• Finally, with all the precipitation the last six months, producers are well-advised to soil test for nitrogen and for alfalfa producers sulfur. Consider, if practical and possible, no-tilling spring crops to save time.  And most importantly be ready to take advantage of dry conditions when they happen.

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