Rain is critical component for 2007 crops prospects

 You can make the case that things don?t look too bad for crops in Marion County this year, but all questions are overshadowed by the top issue that has dominated local farming throughout this decade?we need rain and we need it badly.

Marion County Extension Agent Rickey Roberts said top soil moisture is close to adequate now, ?But we just don?t have much subsoil moisture yet. A lot of the snow we got ran off, the ground was so frozen. We didn?t get all of that moisture because it couldn?t penetrate, didn?t infiltrate. It helped. A little of it went into ponds, which we really needed.

thundermarch07.jpg?With the weather patterns we have, it?s possible to get rain. But, so
far, it?s been isolated, too spotty. Many areas have been passed by.

a little area near Durham that had rain. There?s a swath of area
looking good from Salina to Abilene that had rain, up to an inch or
more. But right here, we just haven?t had enough.

?What I?m
looking for is a good general rain that catches the whole area.
Everybody?s getting ready to plant spring crops. We need that rain.?

U.S. Weather Service lists south-central Kansas as remaining in a
drought situation. The worst drought area begins on the Oklahoma border
and gradually improves to moderately dry in central Dickinson County.

areas are listed with 7-inch to 14-inch annual deficits from last year.
As of the weekend, the possibility of thunderstorms was predicted
through?out the area.

Livestock producers are perhaps feeling
the pinch from lack of rain in previous years more than anybody else.
They are paying high prices both for grain feeds and hay, according to

?There?s no cheap way left to feed cattle,? he added.
?I don?t know for sure how much hay is available, but I think we?re
essentially out of hay. Brome grass likes to get rain early to make
cool-season growth. We?re hoping for a good hay year, and we need that
brome to do it.

?The guys here are crying for anything to feed
cattle. Basically the hay supply is shut down here on south down into
Oklahoma and Texas. We?ve baled up more stocks than ever around here.
We?ve put string around anything we can feed.?

What moisture
there has been has been kind to the grain crop that?s already growing
in the ground: the winter wheat planted last fall.

?The wheat
looks pretty good in most places,? Roberts said. ?There was some damage
early on when grain mites were active in some fields. But there was
little damage or stressing from it in most places. In my opinion, the
wheat just needs rain.?

Most farmers are getting equipment ready
for spring crop planting right now. Roberts said the normally
first-planted of those crops, corn, will be planted soon. There have
been several warm days, and temperatures are rising. Roberts noted that
as soon as the critical soil temperature for corn (50 degree) is
reached, there will be a rush to get the seed into the ground.

As for the crops that will come later, Roberts said rain will be the determining factor for months to come.

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