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Time to start preparing for 2021
Dr. Victor Martin

The Drought Monitor indicates were are still abnormally dry here. The biggest change is an intensification and eastward spread of extreme drought from the corner of Northwest Kansas. Unfortunately for our area, little precipitation is likely over this week and temperatures will be above normal. The six to ten-day outlook (Jan. 13 to 17) indicates above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation. The eight to 14 day outlook (Jan. 15 to 21) indicates a similar pattern except that extreme Northwest Kansas may have above normal precipitation. Today, let’s consider a few items for producers to look at currently in our area.  

• It won’t be all that long until wheat will start greening up and producers will need to evaluate their wheat crop. Wheat fields in the area are at various stages of growth due to planting times and weather but most looks decent to very good as of now. As temperatures increase and wheat starts to green up, it will be important to monitor for potential insect damage, especially army cutworm. Under good growing conditions with vigorous growth, wheat can often outgrow the damage, but with drier/droughty conditions wheat will appear to fail to green up. If so producers need to poke around in the soil at the base of plants to find them and determine if they need to spray. Next what is the yield potential of the crop which is typically a bit of a guess with variable weather. Fortunately wheat prices are better than in recent years. After evaluating, producers need to determine nitrogen and herbicide needs. These are always important considerations but especially under stress conditions such as low soil moisture where proper fertility is even more important. And proper weed control is even more important with thinner stands. Higher wheat prices make it easier to decide to spend the money on nitrogen and weed control.

• It may sound like a broken record but for many it’s time to consider the nutrient status of the soil heading into spring 2021. 2020 harvest was good for many and that removed more soil nutrients. Regular soil testing the same time each year or two is best, except for nitrogen and sulfur which need to be done as close to planting or side-dressing as possible. At the very least, producers should look at the yield in each field and determine how much was removed by harvest and at least plan to replace that amount or the amount estimated for the 2021 crop. Not the best but better than nothing. And especially on sandier soils and south of the river, if it hasn’t been done in a while, check soil pH and possible lime requirements.

• Producers should evaluate weed control problems for each field from 2021, look at their 2021 cropping decisions, and evaluate herbicide protocols. And there are train and new regulations for certain products such as paraquat and dicamba. Also some new technologies are launching for crops like grain sorghum.

• There are virtual and in person meetings ramping up for producers with valuable information with a variety of sources.

There’s a great deal more but these are items everyone should consider.

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