Effects of harsh winter on wheat soon evident

The next 10 days may say a lot about what kind of a year 2014 will be for wheat production and pasture grazing in Marion County.

?Personally, I think what we need most is moisture,? said Rickey Roberts, Marion County Extension agent.

He?s also watching some wheat fields that haven?t greened up yet to see whether they begin typical spring growth soon.

Roberts said the harsh sub-zero arctic fronts that came through this winter may have killed some patches of wheat, or at least have taken a toll on potential yield, especially when there was no snow cover.

?There were two or three times the temperatures were so low, I just hope we had enough snow on the ground to insulate the roots,? he said.

?Without the snow cover, that cold air can penetrate to the root zone. We need 10 days of warmer weather to see.?

About both pastures and wheat, he said, ?We had some snows melt off with the ground so frozen I don?t know how far down the moisture was able to penetrate.?

Even though pastures benefited from August rain last year, Roberts said one farmer digging fence post holes this winter near Marion County Lake told him the current moisture doesn?t penetrate well beyond the top soil profile.

?You dig down very far, and it?s dry,? Roberts said. ?I?m not sure how much sub-soil moisture we really have to work with. We really need good spring rain this year, something to penetrate down, to fill that soil profile.

?We can live hand to mouth, rain to rain,? he added. ?We?ve done it before. But if it goes that way, without some really good rains in April and May, it can get scary.?

Roberts said in some areas there are reports already of pasture stock ponds getting low on water. Good spring rains that produce run-off water will be critical for cattle producers planning on pond water for animals.

According to the USDA Agricultural Statistics Service in Topeka for the first half of March, recorded temperatures were more than 15 degrees below normal across Kansas.

The same service rated the wheat crop in Kansas to date at 5 percent very poor, 13 percent poor, 45 percent fair, 35 percent good and 2 percent excellent.

The agency also recorded calving problems in beef herds with the severe cold and snowstorms contributing to respiratory problems for newborn calves.

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