Rain transforms fall crop outlook

Recent rains have worked wonders for fall crop potential, including this field east of Hillsboro. Extension Agent Rickey Roberts said he agrees with statements that you can almost see the corn growing taller day by day.The outlook for Marion County crops this year after two weeks of abundant rains is looking much better, although nobody can pronounce the drought broken and everything healed.
For instance, Marion County Extension Agent Rickey Roberts can say the wheat crop to be harvested soon shows a lot more promise for paying for the outlay farmers put into it, but it?s far from being healed for abundant production.
It?s the fall crops?the corn, soybeans and what little milo is still planted here?that are showing the signs of possibly unexpected abundance, depending on what the rest of the summer is like.
Regarding wheat, Roberts said, ?The rains did it some good, but that couldn?t fix all the damage that?s really been done.
?The rain helped fill out the grain heads we already had, but the wheat tillers (that usually grow out from the main plant to increase production) were lost, died in the drought. It couldn?t replace those tillers.?
But now, Roberts said, the county is going to produce many wheat fields that yield 30 bushels to the acre that, prior to the rains, looked like 15 bushels would be the best they could yield.
He predicted that harvest, set to begin within the month, will become problematic for farmers trying to cut wheat that is reduced in height by the drought and in greatly thinned stands.
Roberts said farmers will have problems using combines that are designed for taller, heavier crops.
He guessed many farmers are breathing a sigh of relief, like he is, because ?just a month ago I was afraid the wheat was completely gone.?
Now the wheat is at least somewhat spared ?and the corn is really looking good,? he said. ?The corn and the soybeans are both looking really good?really, really good.?
Roberts agreed with statements that you can almost see the corn growing, and looking taller day by day.
The alfalfa hay that once looked like it was ready for dry mid-summer burn is now growing, too, Roberts said, and farmers will take the next cutting soon.
Yes, everything is looking good.
?But?and this is a pretty big but?the crop is still a long way from getting in the bin,? he said. ?I like our chances (for a good crop) a whole lot better today than I did just a couple of weeks ago. The rain has to keep coming when we need it. There could be dry, hot weather ahead.?
For now, though, Roberts said the new crops are looking good, so are the native pastures, and the farm ponds are filling up in many areas.
He acknowledged that Marion County may be in one of the better Kansas spots to be this summer.
The National Agricul?tural Statistics Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports the rain just came too late for some areas south of here where the wheat is much more matured.
NASS predicts the Kansas state harvest will be down 24 percent from last year at 243.6 million bushels.
A month ago, NASS actually predicted a bigger statewide crop of 260.4 million bushels before high, hot temperatures preceding the rain reduced yield expectations.
Wheat marketing groups said that in parts of the state where wheat was further along, the rain may have hurt the crop by knocking down test weights. They also said quality could suffer because of weed growth stimulated by rain, causing difficulty at harvest time.
NASS forecast that Kansas will produce an average yield of 29 bushels per acre this year, down 9 bushels from last year, the lowest yield since 1996. Even though the national average was posted at 42.4 bushels an acre, Kansas was expected to retain title as No. 1 wheat producer in the country.
At least for right now, Marion County appears to be one of the ?sweet spots? for production in Kansas this year.
But, Roberts warned, that?s only if the rains keep coming and there aren?t too many 100-degree days.

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