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The tiniest bit of moisture fell a few days ago, when light snow blew in courtesy of Storm Draco. A couple of inches would have been nice. However, it was encouraging to think that maybe winter will bring some drought relief.

Here’s what Kansas State University crop production specialist Jim Shroyer has to say about current conditions:

“A combination of very low temperatures, dry soils and poorly developed wheat has created concern about the current wheat crop’s survival.”

He gives a great overview of what can help or hinder its survival, including the root system, soil temperature near the crown of the plant, and whether the crown is protected enough by the soil:

http://brianallmerradionetwork.wordpress.com/2012/12/11/12-11-12-ksu-news-cold-weather-dry-soils-raise-questions-about-survival-of-wheat/

We’ve worried about yields before, but never about the crop surviving. V. had intended this field for winter grazing for our small cow/calf herd, but its condition is too poor. There is always some yield loss when calves graze early in the year on wheat, but he doesn’t want to add any more stress to this fragile crop. The best thing for the wheat now would be more snow to insulate and protect it from harsh winds.

Winter wheat, December 2012

Winter wheat, December 2012

Winter wheat field, December 2012

Winter wheat field, December 2012

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Finally, rain last night. We received just short of 1/2 inch, but we’ll take it. We received a tiny shower after wheat planting, but that’s been it for moisture. To make things even drier, we’ve had record high temperatures this fall, close to 90 degrees, and strong winds. In fact, some days, it’s been hard to walk across open fields.

Still, my farmer says he’s pleased with the amount of tillers coming out of each plant. Those tillers will eventually produce grain heads. He’s hoping that the wheat will now use the moisture to put down deeper roots. The plants are not yet dormant because we haven’t had consistently cool temperatures. However, it will go dormant soon.

Take a look at month 2, on a sunny Sunday afternoon:

Kansas Winter Wheat, Nov. 11, 2012

Kansas Winter Wheat Field, Nov. 12, 2012

 

We are a third generation wheat farm. The changes in technology have been staggering since Grandpa’s day. And yet, each year starts the same, with seeds in dirt.

Kansas Winter Wheat, Oct. 12, 2012

These winter wheat seedlings are about 16 days old. How does my farmer describe conditions? “Dry.” There was enough surface moisture for plants to sprout, but subsoil moisture is very poor.

The good news is that the seeds have sprouted. The bad news is that even though harvest won’t happen until next June, the seeds are determining yield now based on soil conditions. We need rain, soon.

Rain will also help the wheat plants establish a good stand to protect against harsh winter conditions. Snow is good, but strong winds can damage the plants. Also, this field, which was planted a little earlier than other fields, will be used as winter pasture for cattle. A plant with a good root structure can stay in place when the cattle munch.

I thought you might like to see the progression of our wheat crop, so this field and I will check in with you next month.

Kansas Winter Wheat Field, Oct. 12, 2012

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