Wheat Crop Condition Worsens As Drought Persists

By: Phil White Email
By: Phil White Email

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

As drought conditions worsen across Kansas, so do concerns about the state's wheat crop.

The situation is already dire in parts of Kansas that the U.S. Drought Monitor says are enduring exceptional drought conditions.

The picture is a bit better in south-central Kansas, despite being in an extreme drought, according to the drought monitor. However, it is a picture that farmers say can change quickly.

"Out here in northwest Sedgwick County, our wheat's surviving," said Mount Hope farmer Jeff Winter.

The fact the wheat is surviving is why Winter and many of his neighbors feel fortunate.

"It looks good for the conditions we have, but I think it's using just the moisture it's been given this fall," Winter said. "There's no excess moisture out there, but it's surviving."

That's in south-central Kansas, where some rain fell at just the right time this fall. You do not have to go very far west before the condition of the crop is much worse.

"Our subsoil is so depleted from the year before, we never did get a chance to replenish that this year," said Mark Ploger, Pratt County Extension Agent. "So, we're really getting a double-whammy on this thing right now."

Ploger said much of the wheat in his part of the state has been slow to grow. Some has not come up at all.

That lack of ground cover makes it easy for the Kansas wind to blow the dry soil around.

"We sure could use any moisture that we could get right now," Ploger said. "We'd take snow, ice, anything like that right now to just kind of help alleviate this situation right now."

Winter said blowing soil should not be a major concern in Sedgwick County.

"We had some timely rains during wheat sewing (planting) and right after that helped it get up and get ground cover on it and keep it from blowing," he said.

However, he added, it needs to rain soon for that luck to hold out. Winter also pointed out farmers are trying to remain optimistic because it is still early in the wheat game.

"We've got two or three more quarters to go and we have a lot better chance, I hope, throughout that to get a little bit more moisture and get some yields," he said.

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