Wheat farmers are hoping weathermen have made good predictions for rain this week as they plant the fall wheat crop. They are gambling on the rain to help get the wheat crop out of the ground.
Pratt County is about 15 inches below the normal rainfall for the year and following the drought of 2011, sub soil moisture down deep in the ground. The sub soil is so depleted it will takes lots and lots of moisture to the soil back in shape.
The area has received a little rain in that last three weeks and farmers are planting but if the summer dry pattern continues that moisture will dry up quickly, said Pratt County Extension Agent Mark Ploger.
“We’re a long ways from being out of the woods with this drought thing,” Ploger said. “We sure need the moisture to keep coming.”
Some farmers have planted grazing wheat and they are banking on the usual rains at the change of season equinox to bring on some rain.
Farmers are gambling that the rains will come and get the wheat up so the land won’t blow.
With so little rain, by the time the farmers get the seed bed ready to plant it doesn’t leave much cover on top. With the persistent Kansas wind it wouldn’t take much to turn fields into blowing sand. The area could see dust storms this winter if the rain doesn’t come.
“If we don’t get rain we stand the risk of dirt moving around,” Ploger said.
Some farmers are considering dusting the crop and hoping for a rain because even though wheat may not have enough moisture to sprout and grow it’s better to have the wheat in the ground where it can have a chance.
“It won’t grow sitting in the truck,” Ploger said.
But farmers are eternal optimists. They believe the rains will come and the wheat will grow and things will get better, Ploger said.
While the wheat waits on the rain the fall crops are past the point where moisture would do them any good.
“The crop it’s (rain) going to benefit the most is the wheat crop,” Ploger said.
The lack of moisture hit the corn harvest hard. The dry land produced almost nothing while the irrigated crops are all over the place for yield.
Numbers are ranging from 90 bushels per acre all the way up to 200 bushels per acre. Depending on the location of the field and where the plants were in the pollination process, the rains in the county had a big impact on yield numbers.
Page 2 of 2 - “It made all the difference in the world,” Ploger said.
The spread in bushels per acre make it very difficult to determine an average corn crop in the county this year.
Drought hit the soybeans hard with very little seed development. The heat and drought hit just when seedpods should be developing.
Milo is a tough crop. It’s very forgiving. It will just sit and do nothing then a rain will come along and the plant will take off. Unfortunately, this year that rain came later than usual and the plants didn’t get enough heat units.
With milo the yield also depends on when it was planted and what was going on during pollination.
Cotton tends to thrive on high heat units and doesn’t need much water. It’s to early to tell what the cotton crop will do this year so cotton farmers will have wait and hope for the best, Ploger said.
Pratt County is the leading county in the state for cotton acres.
The latest information from Kansas Agriculture Statistics predicts a 15 percent drop in corn yield, a 20 percent drop in milo yield and a 31 percent drop in soybean yield this year over 2011. Cotton yield is predicted to drop from 69,000 in 2011 to 47,000 in 2012.
With two years of drought in a row the only saving grace for farmers is commodity prices are high at this time. Even though fuel, fertilizer and seed costs have risen, the commodity prices have filled the gap for now.
“It’s been our saving grace,” Ploger said.