Randy was never a Boy Scout. The youth program of choice for both of us was 4-H. But "scouting" is part of his farming duties.
Scouting wheat fields last week showed that the wheat is way ahead of schedule, mostly due to the unseasonably high temperatures. C'mon now: 80 degrees in mid-March is just too warm. Still, jubilation seemed to be the general theme for everyone I heard talking about the weather - until I talked to my usually unrelentingly optimistic husband.
The warm weather makes the 2012 wheat crop susceptible to a late freeze. K-State Wheat Specialist Jim Shroyer told the Kansas City Star last week: "The wheat looks actually too good for this time of year. With the warm weather conditions we've had, the wheat has really taken off. It's not paying any attention to the calendar whatsoever."
We don't have to search too far back in the memory banks to realize that a late freeze could decimate the Kansas wheat crop. Just five years ago, in 2007, Easter weekend brought snow and cold to Kansas. The freeze cut yields considerably on a crop that had looked better than average.
With the unseasonably warm temperatures, the 2012 wheat crop needed a drink of water. We are thankful for the 0.60 we received Monday and are hopeful that the weather forecast comes true and brings additional rain this week. Though we've had some moisture this winter, we haven't had nearly enough to break the drought of 2011.
Our wheat is "jointing," where the leaf begins to elongate, forming a stem. This is the time frame in the wheat plant where yield potential is determined, so it's a benefit if it has adequate moisture and nutrients available to it.
We've done what we can about the nutrients. We topdressed the wheat fields with liquid nitrogen. Now it's up to Mother Nature to supply the moisture we need and to keep the temperatures above freezing.
Randy is smiling right now. Hopefully, he'll still be smiling at harvest!