Thursday, March 7, 2013

Gone But Not Forgotten

Taken February 22, 2013, after the first round of snow. We received a total of 20 inches during two storms.
The blanket of white that covered wheat fields has become patchwork after more moderate temperatures this week. The snow is about gone, but it's not forgotten because we continue to be thankful for the moisture after suffering the second year of drought on the County Line.

Randy says it was an ideal snow for the wheat, since it provided moisture and slowed the growth of the 2013 wheat crop. Talk at the coffee shop is that maybe we won't be cutting wheat in May this year.
As Kansas Wheat reports, the two winter storms piled up snowfall totals ranging from more than 24 inches in south central Kansas and eastern Kansas, to 6 inches in southwest Kansas and nearly a foot in northwest and north central Kansas. We got about 20 inches total of snow here on the County Line. The snowfall - with actual precipitation amounts ranging from 1/4 inch to more than 2 inches throughout the state - will help offset the extremely dry conditions into which many farmers planted last fall.(Plant into dust and your bins will bust? )

Dry conditions are nothing new. In 2011, there was very little surface moisture, but there was subsoil moisture a few inches down to keep the wheat alive until spring rains fell. For the 2013 crop, however, there is little topsoil or subsoil moisture available to the wheat crop. 

The new Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service report this week noted that the melting snow has improved soil moisture in parts of the state. Water levels in stock ponds are also showing slight improvement. But the agency says more moisture is still needed. Topsoil moisture levels across Kansas are now rated 49 percent short to very short, while subsoil moisture levels are 83 percent short to very short. Stock water supplies are 85 percent short to very short.
Meanwhile, 35 percent of the winter wheat crop is rate in poor to very poor condition. About 41 percent of the wheat is in fair condition, with 23 percent rated good and 1 percent in excellent condition.
We are counting our blessings as we watch the vivid green wheat emerge from its blanket of white. And, while there's a long way to go until Wheat Harvest 2013, cautious optimism seems to be a by-product. 

Jim Shroyer, Extension agronomist for Kansas State University, told Kansas Wheat  there are areas of Kansas that appear to have a good crop thus far, but he's not one to make predictions.
"Even poor stands can be helped with the right temperature and the right amount of precipitation. Me prognosticating from this point on is pointless. If it is above normal temperatures from this point on, yields will be hurt. However, if we get average to below normal temperatures, and we have good wheat stands, we could have a respectable crop. Temperatures are the teller." 
Jim Shroyer, KSU Extension

Though the snowfall helped, it is by no means a drought-buster. Two years of moisture deficit can't be eliminated through a couple of snowstorms, no matter how timely they were. We'll hope the preliminary weather forecasts for additional weekend rainfall arrive in Kansas.
February 26, 2013, after the second snowstorm
We'll also pray that there's no late freeze.
"When the daytime temperatures are greater than 60 or 70 degrees, and nighttime temperatures don't get close to freezing, I get a little worried - especially if it is too early in the year. In the middle of February, that's not a good thing to have. In this case, the wheat crop begins to lose its winterhardiness."
Jim Shroyer, KSU Extension 
Back in 1989, an 85 degree day in January gave way to single digits with below zero wind chill the next day. Because the wheat broke dormancy early, the freeze killed the wheat.

 "Ideally, we would have a gradual increase in temperature over time. But that doesn't often happen in Kansas," Shroyer said.
Thanks to Bill Spiegel at Kansas Wheat for the information on the wheat crop and the interview with Jim Shroyer.


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