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It is time to take a breath
Dr. Victor Martin

The drought monitor shows abnormally dry areas in Western and South Central Kansas expanding with Barton, Stafford, Rice and Pratt Counties added to the area.   The abnormally dry area is also expanding into Northwest Kansas.  Unfortunately, the moderate drought area in Southwest Kansas is expanding as is the severe drought area.  There is even the start of an area of extreme drought starting to develop.  There is little significant precipitation in the forecast to improve soil moisture conditions.  However, temperatures look to be more seasonal compared of the warmth of the previous week and that will help minimize evaporative loss.  Today, since it is Thanksgiving week, instead of some heavy topic let’s take stock of where the area is as of the end of November.

With an exception or two, the 2019 harvest is over.  Not a fantastic year but in light of the weather struggles and other challenges, not terrible either.  Yields for corn, milo, and grain sorghum were a bit all over the place, especially grain sorghum.  Late planted milo, especially fuller season hybrids were dinged by the weather and especially by what was essentially an average first frost date.  On the plus side, the cold weather killed sorghum plants, helped them dry down and make harvest easier.  Some soybean fields were a bit dinged in October, but most beat the frost.  A benefit of the recent dry spell is once in the fields, harvest proceeded as rapidly as seed moisture allowed.  A negative was the delay in planting wheat in spots after summer row crops.

Overall, wheat planting went far better than last year.  Most stands are well-established and have tillered decently.  It appears most of the later planted wheat is emerged or emerging and weather conditions will determine how many tillers are set if/when wheat enters dormancy.  Those wanting to turn cattle out on wheat pasture would have appreciated a bit more growth but again, overall conditions are better than last year at this time.  Some rainfall would help the wheat and prevent the chance of stand loss from dry soil combined with cold.  There is still time and there are moisture chances in the forecast for this week.

There are producers who like to strip till as it essentially combines the benefits of no-till with the benefits of tillage in a narrow strip for spring seeded crops.  Ideally, the best time to do this is fall as it allows time for soil to settle and prepare a firm seedbed.  Last year it was difficult for many as soils were too wet.  This year should be a much better fit.  It is a good time, if these conditions continue, to catch up on field work and even some weed control.  A much more boring fall than last year.

Finally, happy Thanksgiving to all.  Be safe and enjoy the holiday.

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