The frustration and irony of the local grain crops situation was written all over a Marion County farmer?s face.
?You know,? he said, ?I could have the best soybeans standing out there I?ve ever had, but I don?t know when I can get to them and what they?ll be like with this cold and this rain.
?Usually, I have the corn all done by now, and at least part of the milo cut. Usually, I?m about all done planting wheat. But this year none of it?s done. There?s the corn, the milo, the beans, and it?s all going to hit at once.?
Marion County Extension Agricultural Agent Rickey Roberts said the farmer?s concern probably speaks for the majority of local producers this year. They have watched the cool, wet summer build crop potential only to be ending the season with two months of rains and wondering when they?ll get a good set of working days in the fields.
Roberts is hoping that since the area got by without the really hard freeze predicted for the Oct. 10 weekend, there is a ?window of opportunity? for Marion County producers still to come out with a great season.
?I can?t really say what it?s doing to the crops,? he said. ?I haven?t had reports of damage. There are things that can occur when you can?t get in the field, and we have to get concerned about getting everything done.
?The soybeans can shatter out. The corn can sprout in the ear. It?s less than an ideal situation?you have to hope for sunshine and dry days, that you get that corn about done before the beans are ready.?
For local farmers, there?s going to be a lot of work to do in a short amount of time, Roberts said.
?It was such a strange summer, so cool and so wet. We really ran out of heat this year?not enough hot weather for crops to finish up.
?This is always a race against the calendar for the double-crop stuff, the milo and beans planted after wheat. You hope we have the weather for them to finish before the first freeze.?
Roberts said he was concerned about the first freeze, but doesn?t ?believe we?ve had the first killing frost here yet.?
?I?ve seen some brown leaves, perhaps some frost damage. But I hope the basic plant is still there, and I hope the crop can finish coloring (milo especially ripening to full color) before it?s gone.
?We may see parts of milo heads damaged, but there will still be grain there.
?The same is true on the beans. If they have green leaves, they?re still trying to finish, and if they freeze, they?ll just stay green beans. I?m hoping that doesn?t happen.?
Roberts is still optimistic about the bean crop.
?We may still have some record beans,? he said. ?Then there will be pockets where they?re not quite as good. There was a time a month ago when I thought they were shaping up to be awfully good.
Roberts said he thinks most continuous wheat fields have been planted.
?There?s still plenty of time to get the wheat in. It just adds more work to the load.?
He acknowledged that wheat may be planted in some soybean fields already harvested, ?but that?s where a producer is awfully fortunate in labor supply?probably had somebody else working ground, and drilling wheat right behind the combine.?
Because of the moisture, he has seen some fall rust infection on crops, ?but I don?t get worked up about it,? he said. ?This stuff usually doesn?t overwinter.?
Roberts said he fills out crop condition reports each week for the Kansas Agriculture Statistics Service, and would rather error on the side of caution when he does so.
Therefore he added, ?You can?t count the grain crop until it?s in the bin. Nothing is guaranteed. That?s the life of being in production agriculture.?
The only problem awaiting grain once it?s in storage this year is at the terminals. Mike Woolverton, grain marketing specialist at Kansas State University, said wheat is tied up in terminal storage facilities and the transportation system because foreign buyers are waiting to see how far prices will drop before purchasing.
Tom Tunnell, executive director of the Kansas Grain and Feed Association, said that situation was in part alleviated by poor, drought-stricken crops in Oklahoma and Texas.
In country elevators, storage usually is cleaned out, as in Marion County. But commentators said that if the system does back up, most country elevators are equipped to store milo outside.