Kansas wheat growing conditions are “beautiful”

Posted December 3, 2015

Icy conditions were abundant statewide over the Thanksgiving weekend, but with a predicted warmer than normal winter on the way, what lies in store for the Kansas wheat crop?

With a wetter than average November, farmers in central and western parts of the state have found themselves in a position they haven’t experienced in years: having a healthy looking start to their wheat crop.

Scott Van Allen, a wheat farmer from Clearwater, reported that even though his wheat growth is a little larger than he usually likes to see at this point, the crop so far looks great. While Van Allen isn’t sure if this early growth will translate into bushels next summer, he did say the three inches of precipitation he received from the late November storms have left his wheat happy.

“I haven’t seen this much early growth in years,” said Van Allen. “It’s been so dry for so long it’s a switch to actually have some fall moisture.”

Beloit farmer Michael Jordan added that the wheat in his area is looking terrific, as well. Jordan said he noticed a later emergence this year, but the .55" of precipitation he has received since November 25 has helped to satiate the area’s crop.

“Everything looks refreshed and pretty,” Jordan said. “However, that means the weeds are looking pretty healthy, as well.”

While this may be a good start for central and western Kansas farmers, the south eastern portion of the state has seen reports of being too wet. Even though these farmers had a dryer than average October, some areas saw almost 8" of precipitation in November.

Aaron Harries, Vice President of Research and Operations at Kansas Wheat, emphasized that for the majority of wheat growers in the state, growing conditions are “beautiful.”

“These conditions really allow for strong root growth,” said Harries. “Building a solid foundation for the wheat plant is vital for a successful crop.”

Farmers should remember that this growing season is part of an El Niño pattern, so far among the strongest on record. Farmers in Oklahoma are also seeing an influx of precipitation in 2015. As of December 1, some areas are seeing up to a 30 inch increase in moisture in comparison to the same date in 2014. While last year’s lack of moisture can be attributed to the drought conditions found across the Great Plains, this year’s increase is directly tied to the El Niño.

To the north, states like Montana and the Dakotas were predicted to have drier than normal conditions due to the El Niño pattern, but Sioux Falls, S.D., just had its fourth snowiest November on record with 17.3 inches of snow. That is already more than half of the total snow that South Dakota received last winter. In light of these discrepancies, remember no two El Niños behave in the same way; these observations were trends, not guarantees.

Even still, farmers hold out hope for a wet winter that will help their crop thrive for next season.

“Everything looks really great right now,” Jordan said. “And I’m thankful for that.”

By Jordan Hildebrand