December rains have given Marion County and area wheat producers a shot at a more abundant winter wheat crop next summer.
After dry-weather stressed crops with consequently lowered yields in recent years, there probably is a greatly improved chance of a good wheat crop harvest next June and July.
Marion County Agricultural Extension Agent Rickey Roberts said Saturday that rain a week ago ?wasn?t an awful lot of water,? 0.75 to an inch in many places, ?but it helped us an awful lot.
A few isolated areas in the northern part of the county were reported to have had even larger rainfall.
The slow pace of the rain allowing it to soak into the earth was an important factor in relieving the drought situation, Roberts said.
He said that up to a few days before the rain he was ready to cut wheat crop yield estimates because it looked like another dry dusty winter was coming on that could cut wheat growth back or even thin stands out with winter-kill.
Another 0.75 was predicted by weather services for Sunday, and Roberts said that probably will even help the situation more.
?It was really important,? Roberts said. ?It may have helped save the wheat crop. It really penetrated the earth.
?It wasn?t much water, but it did a lot of good. I feel like the wheat outlook today is a lot better than it was just a week ago.?
Roberts said it is very important to have moisture to improve the root tone of the wheat. The injured, more flaccid roots of dry wheat, contributes to winter kill.
?Cold air really penetrates dry earth.?
Roberts warned that the county still ?has to have good spring rains to make the wheat crop. We always do.?
He said getting good winter moisture contributes to having a good wheat crop, but the wheat just must have spring rain to top off the effect.