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Much-needed moisture saves crops
new deh rain ag story pic web
Rainwater fills a ditch alongside a wheat field south of Great Bend Wednesday afternoon. Ag officials are saying the recent showers came at an ideal time for area farmers. - photo by Dale Hogg/Great Bend Tribune

An inch or two of rain across the Golden Belt this week couldn’t have come at a better time for agriculture producers.
“This rain was really critical,” said Dan Frieb, soil conservation technician at the Natural Resources Conservation Service office in Great Bend. “What was really nice about this rain, it was a gentle soaking rain with less chance of runoff.”
The above average temperatures in March caused winter wheat to emerge early, but some of the leaves had a blue tinge. That is a sign of drought-stressed plants, said Dennis Neeland, general manager at the Great Bend Co-op.
“The wheat was starting to go backwards,” Neeland said. “We really needed this rain. It’s going to generate some money for the communities and the farmers.”

“The wheat was at a stage where it was needing moisture,” Frieb said. Most of the area received at least an inch of rain on Tuesday, which probably soaked down 4 inches to the wheat’s root zone. More rain fell Wednesday, and there could be more on the way.
“I wouldn’t say this rain is going to produce a crop, but it will bring it along,” Frieb said. “Hopefully with more spring weather it will carry through.”
An April freeze is always a possibility, and would not be good for wheat that has come out of dormancy early. But, Frieb said, “If we could get some timely rains every couple of weeks, that would be ideal.”

The rain is also beneficial to the pastures and to non-irrigated crops that will be planted this spring: corn, milo and soybeans. Planting could be delayed if the rain goes on too long, but rain now will be beneficial to the subsoil later.
“This will give the spring planted crops a chance to get off to a good start,” Neeland said.
“I don’t think anybody’s complaining about it being wet now,” Frieb said. “Farmers are enjoying what they’re receiving.”

The rain could encourage farmers to invest in fertilizer and herbicide, he continued.
“If the wheat was going to burn up, they probably weren’t going to put more money into it.”

The National Weather Service’s forecast for Barton County:
• Cloudy Thursday with a 30 percent chance of rain in the morning, then partly sunny in the afternoon. Highs in the lower 50s; north winds 15-20 mph with gusts to around 25 mph.
• Partly sunny Friday with highs in the mid-50s, northeast wind 5-10 mph; 50 percent chance of rain after midnight.
• Showers likely Saturday morning; rain likely and a slight chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon. Highs in the lower 50s; chance of rain 70 percent.