Hopes for a wetter, or at least normal year, are growing with every snow or rain.
Brian Nickel, agronomist for Cooperative Grain in Hillsboro, said “it looks like we’re not in top moisture conditions” for crop growth and planting, but Marion County and surrounding areas are at least in better shape for soil water content than they’ve been for at least two years.
The wheat is “looking as healthy and as good as it can right now” with breaking dormancy to begin growing in warmer conditions, Nickel said.
He noted that colder weather lasting a little later than it did a year ago has slowed wheat growth to its more normal pattern set for harvest later in June rather than near Memorial Day like last year.
In a similar fashion for crops in the ground, alfalfa fields “are looking pretty good,” he said, hopefully in position for normal multiple cuttings for the first year in a while if only good moisture conditions will persist.
There appears to be weevil infestations of some early concern in some alfalfa fields, he said.
Nickel said telephone calls from farmers for field chemical applications multiplied rapidly with the upswings in warmer temperatures last week.
Many of the calls came from farmers who will be planting corn with favorable weather in the next two to three weeks, possibly by April 1, he said, with soybean and milo planting probably waiting until a little later.
Although moisture conditions are improved, Nickel warned that they are still only adequate for this time of year, and still no where near replacing long-term soil moisture levels lost during the last two or more years.
If rain doesn’t continue at an adequate pace, he said soils could dry out very quickly, leading to crop losses.
Many Marion County livestock producers have been saying they hope for heavier rainfall to refill stock water ponds.
According to the U.S. Agricultural Statistics Service as of March 11, Kansas topsoil moisture was rated at 18 percent very short, 30 percent short, 46 percent adequate and 6 percent surplus. Kansas subsoil moisture was rated as 41 percent very short, 42 percent short, 16 percent adequate and 1 percent surplus.
In south-central Kansas USASS rated topsoil moisture at 12 percent very short, 24 percent short, 51 percent adequate and 13 percent surplus, while subsoil moisture was at 37 percent very short, 54 percent short, 9 percent adequate and 0 percent surplus.
The highest concentrations of soil moisture adequacy was in Eastern Kansas regions even though they had relatively short areas, too.
From Texas to the Dakotas east to Wisconsin, including Kansas, the agency rated last year’s drought and moisture shortage the worst in 50 years.
Nickel said county moisture is off to such a better start “that I hope for a better year. I guess we’ll take what we get.”
The memory of ending May a year ago with good rainfall only to go with no water and ultra-high temperatures the rest of the summer is still a memory too close at hand to cut it entirely out.