Drought is shriveling hope for profitable fall harvest


SoybeansInWheatStraw367
SoybeansInWheatStraw367

It seems the only sure things about the weather are that it will repeat, and it will change.

Marion County Extension Agent Rickey Roberts said a month ago, “I thought we were better off than a year ago.”

But that was before going another month with 100-degree plus temperatures and no rain.

“Now, we’re in the middle of a train wreck,” Roberts said, referring to the finished corn crop and the soybeans going downhill day by day.

“Some of the milo is heading now, and I think we’ll get to harvest a little of that,” he added. “But the beans are painting a really bleak picture. I think we’ll still get to harvest a few beans down on the bottoms, but the rest of them are just about finished.

Roberts said because the beans still show good color and leaf to them, producers with cattle can cut them for hay.

“But I’m afraid if we don’t get some rain just right away, the bean harvest is going to be about zero,” he said.

Roberts said the best use for many of the beans might be to till them under to take advantage of the plant’s leguminous nitrogen fixing abilities and organic matter for fall wheat planting.

It is of small comfort here to realize th

at Marion County and all of Kansas is part of a much larger drought area that extends from Texas to the south, to Wisconsin in the north, to many of the southeastern states, according to varied press and U.S. Department of Agriculture reports.

USDA projects that crop losses nationwide will top a value of $12 billion. The agency predicts a 6 percent rise in grocery prices as a result.

USDA predicts the lowest national corn yield in more than 15 years—when predictions at the beginning of the season were for an all-time record corn crop, and possibly the same for soybeans.

There were reports of worse conditions in states such as Illinois, with farmers reporting soybeans reduced to crunchy straw conditions. Normally, Illinois is a higher rainfall state than Kansas.

But here, Roberts said, “Actually the beans still have some really good color. But I’ve been here 10 years, and this is as bad or worse as it’s been in that time.”

Listening to conversations in Marion and Hillsboro, farmers were talking about feed values of soybeans for hay. Some questioned the feed value level they were expecting of no-till beans with wheat straw because they were planted in stubble.

Roberts said soybean hay should have 15.5 percent protein with the level going down the more straw and the less bean foliage there is in it.

In a year when hay yields are also down because of the drought, and pastures are drying up requiring early feeding of cattle or selling them. Roberts said the bean hay may help save some herds.

He said he realized that some farmers are really struggling “and shaking their heads” over what to do about cutting beans for hay. But it’s critical they decide soon with continued dry weather likely to take down protein and feed quality.

The best thing to hope for, Roberts said, may be for rain that will help fall-planted wheat come up for a good harvest next summer.

In the meantime, it’s likely to be a “short, terrible” fall harvest, he said.


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