Great Bend Tribune
Published March 4, 2018
Even with a bit of moisture over the last week, the drought that has settled over Kansas has deepened a bit overall with only a tiny portion of extreme Northwest Kansas in no stage of drought. Three-quarters of the state ranges from Moderate to Extreme Drought. Today is March 4th so Kansas producers are starting to grow concerned about more than just the 2018 wheat crop since corn planting isn’t far off, alfalfa will start greening up, pastures need burned in many cases, and other summer crops aren’t far off.
The area is feeling the effects of a La Nina so moisture will likely be hard to come by until it weakens or disappears. This event forces the jet stream into a high amplitude pattern which in simple language means the moisture from the Gulf of Mexico our state primarily relies on is pushed to the north and east of the state. Kansas is now approaching the time of the year, March through mid-July, when we receive the bulk of our useable precipitation. What should a producer do?
- Wheat – Even with all the weather challenges of the past five months, wheat is greening up. Normally by now fertilizer and herbicide applications would be in full swing but farmers are naturally hesitant as many have no idea what their stand looks like and if fields will receive moisture. There is still time to evaluate and apply fertilizer/herbicides or abandon fields. This isn’t the first or likely the last time wheat producers will face this situation and many remember several years ago when a pretty hopeless wheat crop turned into a state record crop. If a field is going to harvest, fields will need good weed control, especially thin and poorly tillered stands. Care needs to be taken so that herbicides selected won’t interfere with possible cropping opportunities if the field needs to be abandoned. It would be wise with nitrogen fertility to wait as long as possible to evaluate the stand and see if any tillers set but not above ground will express themselves. In any case, a conservative yield goal is in order for additional fertilizer.
- Canola – There is some canola is this area, primarily south of Great Bend. With the dry conditions, lack of snow cover, and several severe cold snaps, some fields likely incurred winterkill. However, it normally takes off ahead of wheat and dead plants more easily identifiable. On the plus side, before abandoning a field, a producer should carefully evaluate the stand since with favorable conditions canola can branch out to fill in gaps and since it blooms over an extended period of time there is more wiggle room.
- Corn – We are still about six weeks away from most producers getting serious about corn planting so there is certainly time for conditions to improve. However, producers might examine their choice of hybrids, seeding rate, yield goal, and even the possibility of switching to grain sorghum. Irrigated producers are at less of a disadvantage but still might want to reevaluate their plans.
- Grain sorghum and soybeans – The area is two months off from becoming serious about these crops and there may be an increase in acreage of these crops depending on conditions.
The key is careful monitoring of fields and conditions and making sure fields aren’t locked into situations that can’t be changed.