Following the largest Kansas wheat crop in nearly a decade - 382.2 million bushels, according to Kansas Ag Statistics - it appears a smaller Kansas wheat crop could be in store for 2013.
In in its Jan. 11 Crops Report, KASS estimated that Kansas farmers planted 9.3 million acres of wheat for the 2013 crop. This is the second-largest planted acreage in the last five years, but falls 200,000 acres short of the previous year's mark.
Many farmers planted their crop in relatively dry conditions; even after rain and snow events this month the state is abnormally dry, according to farmer-leaders of the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers and Kansas Wheat Commission, who met Jan. 15 in Manhattan.
David Schemm, past-president of KAWG from Sharon Springs, says wheat planted last fall emerged okay, but lack of moisture and has damaged the stand of wheat in his western Kansas fields. In the winter dormancy period, wheat typically retains some green color, but plants in many of his fields are brown.
"If we have good rainfall in the spring, we have a chance for maybe an average crop," Schemm says. If not, it could be a poor harvest this summer.
Jason Ochs, Kansas Wheat Commissioner from Syracuse, says wheat in southwest Kansas ranges in condition from not yet emerged, to too big. "The last snow helped reduce the drought impact, but there are areas where it is still awfully dry," Ochs said. "If we have normal weather from here on out, we could possibly have an average crop."
Randy Fritzemeier, KAWG director near Stafford, said conditions are more favorable in central Kansas. His area has received just enough precipitation to get the crop established, and with several inches of snow earlier in January, the crop has enough topsoil moisture to sustain it through the spring.
Subsoil moisture, however, is another story. Longtime meteorologist Dave Relihan says Kansas is in the midst of its worst drought in 60 years. Rain showers and snowfall the last month have provided temporary drought relief, replenishing dry subsoil profiles would require "1993-like flooding," which won't happen in 2013, he told farmers attending the 2013 Kansas Commodity Classic in Manhattan Jan. 16.
Relihan said this drought's footprint has been massive, and Kansas and northern Oklahoma are in the thick of the drought complex right now. It started in Texas four years ago, and it appears to be breaking up in Texas now, he said.
Although it will be at least a year before Kansas farmers see a return to more normal precipitation levels, the state should receive more rainfall in 2013 than in 2012, giving hope to the wheat crop, although Relihan fears that fall crops could again be impacted by dry weather. In 2014, the drought's hold on Kansas could be much less severe.
Source: Kansas Wheat