PITTSBURG — As unseasonably wet and cold weather continues, with temperatures forecast to dip below freezing again later this week, local agriculture is feeling an impact.
“A lot of farmers are worried,” said James Coover, crop production agent for the Wildcat Extension District. “We’re delayed with just about everything we need to do because of the rain and because it’s been colder.”
Planting corn, which usually happens in early to mid-April, is “likely” to be delayed, Coover said, although it is “almost impossible to tell” whether the weather might improve enough in the next few weeks to allow planting on a more normal schedule.
Other crops are similarly being affected by the weather. “Wheat doesn’t like it to be as wet as it’s been,” Coover said.
At this point in the growing season farmers would typically be done with topdressing, or in other words applying fertilizer to the surface layer of soil, for their wheat crops.
“In a normal year, producers would start planning for topdressing nitrogen (N) on the winter wheat crop in early February,” according to a March 8 Wildcat Extension publication. “However, with challenges related to excessive moisture and snowfall, and below-average temperatures in significant parts of the state, the majority of the Kansas producers have not been able to topdress their crop. Additionally, about half of the Kansas wheat crop is extremely small (less than one tiller) due to late planting last fall coupled with below-average winter temperatures.”
Coover said a slight advantage of the cold weather is that “farmers have a larger window to get their topdress on” although that larger window will probably only last until about April 1, and overall this year’s weather has not been good for farmers.
“It’s really hard to say” if there is going to be any effect on crop yields from the unseasonable weather this year, Coover said, or whether crops such as soybeans, usually planted in May, will be impacted.
“Cold weather persists into March and is a blessing for some. Due to increased moisture in the fall and continuing into winter, the cold has frozen soil and solidified roads for field access. Fortunately, this means the moisture profile is quite saturated with ample moisture for the winter and the start of the growing season for summer crops,” according to the March 8 update document from Wildcat Extension.
“Unfortunately, this also means that the increased moisture is trapped within the sub-surface and is not evaporating. This increased soil moisture will be realized when the temperatures warm and soils thaw. Field conditions are anticipated to be difficult with excessive mud across a large majority of the state, especially in eastern and parts of western Kansas.”