Crops really needing moisture

    Planting was completed in timely fashion this year, and now farmers just need one more thing: rain.
    “It went pretty good,” said Bob Kline, University of Nebraska Western Nebraska Crop Specialist in North Platte.
    “There were a few delays and some colder temperatures, but for most of it, the crops went in pretty timely. And stands of crops, the corn, soybeans, grain sorghum, were all pretty good this year.”
    Aside from some early corn and beans, planting kicked into high gear the last week of April. Grain sorghum went in a little later, and most planting was finished by mid-May or shortly after, Kline said.
    And now, “everything looks pretty good out there,” he said. “Really, our biggest concern now is the drought.”
    There was good moisture early in the spring, but not much lately. And dry conditions have been aggravated by hot, windy weather.
    According to the Upper Republican Natural Resources District website, most of the four reporting stations in Chase County have received a little more than a half-inch of precipitation this month.
    The Imperial reporting station has collected .567 of an inch; Lamar, .614; Imperial West, .315; and Champion, .583.
    “It’s really hurting,” Kline said. “That’s going to be a factor, it’s going to be critical. High winds and high temperatures really dry things up.”
    Sustained temperatures over 85 degrees shortens the wheat-filling period, when kernels fill out, and “that, of course, results in lower yields,” he said.
    In contrast, the last couple of springs have been cooler, with more moisture. But now, “some of this wheat is getting pretty droughty.”
    The good news is that soil moisture reserves built up earlier in the year, even if the area hasn’t seen much rain since.
    Kline noted there are some exceptions, where some areas have seen more moisture. But it also depends on what kind of rainfall there was.
    Thunderstorms tend to drop moisture in separate spots, where “differing fronts moving through give everybody some rain,” Kline said. “With a thunderstorm, one person gets three inches and another person gets .03 (of an inch).”
    The Imperial and Wauneta area has been relatively dry, he said.
    That means irrigation, but that shouldn’t be a problem, Kline said. “In most cases, farmers have pretty good allotments of water they can use and so forth. Their allocation, that’s always critical.” In the last few years, irrigators “took advantage of it and didn’t irrigate; they’ve been managing their allocations.”
    There have been no major changes in what crops have been planted, he said. Some producers have planted slightly more grain, and they are trying to limit fallow periods on dryland.
    “That works good when you have above-average rainfall, but when you have average or below average, that adds to the challenges,” Kline said.
Wheat harvest close
    Wheat harvest in southwest Nebraska is just getting underway on dryland fields.
    One grain operator in Benkelman said they got their first loads Tuesday while another operator said they are still awaiting their first load.
    Hot, dry winds and some late frost damage have hurt this year’s wheat crop, said Tom Luhrs, local seed producer.
    He said a pair of late frosts nipped off additional tillers on the plant. That, coupled with the hot, dry winds, have reduced the expectations for this year’s crop.
    He estimated harvest in Chase County is still seven to 10 days off. Irrigated fields still have a lot of green in them, he said, noting that harvest may still be two to three weeks off.


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