Wheat crop looks good as official start of spring nears


With adequate subsoil moisture and recent rain to replenish moisture in the topsoil, farmers could see another good harvest this summer?barring the unforeseen intervention of bad weather.

Marion County appears to be ahead of the game going into spring farming plans, but there are always those unknown future events that could intervene as spoilers.

The wheat planted last fall is quickly making itself more apparent in rich, green stands across the countryside. Hopefully, it will be an income producer with markets as uncertain as the weather.

County Agricultural Extension Agent Rickey Roberts said he actually was relieved to see the weather turn cold last week to slow the wheat a little.

?The wheat is ahead of schedule,? he said. ?We?ve had such a warm February. It?s looking good.

?With that rain over the weekend, and just a little bit more warm weather, it?s going to make that wheat really just jump out of the ground, it will grow so fast.

?That?s not a problem now,? he added, ?but it could make it vulnerable to some things later. An example of a future problem as a result would be if we had a late freeze to damage it.

?A lot of things could happen to slow it down, but it just looks great now, greened up nicely. We?ll just have to continue watching things.?

Roberts said Marion County, and most of this area, could count itself in the ?fortunate? area for weather, especially adequate moisture. He said much of Oklahoma and Texas are reported as too dry.

There are reports from Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma, three of the larger wheat producers, of wheat injured this winter by drought.

On Wednesday, March 11, the Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service showed 15 percent of the Kansas wheat crop in poor to very poor condition due to dry weather, with most of the problem area in the west.

KASS reported 35 percent of the crop in fair shape, 45 percent as good and 5 percent as excellent.

The agency said topsoil moisture was short to very short across 66 percent of the state. Subsoil conditions were short to very short.

Roberts said subsoil moisture had remained adequate here throughout the winter, but the topsoil had become dry.

But the situation began changing Saturday, March 7, with an area-wide storm dropping highly varied amounts of rain, but all were adequate to increase topsoil moisture.

Some locations near Marion and Florence reported more than 2 inches. Roberts said at his home near Hillsboro he had 0.8 of an inch.

He hasn?t heard any reports out of Oklahoma or Texas, where the wheat crop is further ahead, about any diseases or insect problems. But those can still develop as the season progresses.

As far as whether the dry weather in some places will affect wheat prices, Roberts said the market isn?t just a factor of ?conventional supply and demand anymore.?

He said if the national and world economies can turn around from the low spot they?re in, then commodity grain prices are likely to rebound.

Roberts said he was encouraged by last week?s better performance by the Dow Jones, an indicator as to how the world has changed for marketing agricultural commodities.

Roberts said preparations for planting spring crops ?will get going in a hurry as the soil temperature warms up.? He has seen some tillage already??they?ll begin working, getting ready to go.?

The first spring crop likely to go in will be corn as the soil temperature moves to 50 degrees and more, he said.

For the county?s cow-calf producers, the mild winter has been good, Roberts said. The warm weather is making calving easier and more pleasant to deal with.

?What?s hard on this livestock though,? he said, ?is the times we?ve had wide swings in weather?75 degrees one day, then 45 degrees the next.?

Roberts said, ?I am still optimistic. Things are looking good, and I?m hopeful for recovery in the market.?

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