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Cold’s full effect on Kansas crops yet to be seen

  • Published Wednesday, May 8, 2013, at 10:25 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, May 8, 2013, at 10:25 p.m.

It’s been a mixed bag for producers across Kansas.

Sure, there’s been more moisture than there was last year. However, that moisture has come with cold snaps that have prevented corn planting and burned the emerging wheat crop.

Doug Cossey, southwest territory manager for Servi-Tech, said that planters are running two to three weeks behind their usual schedule.

“In a normal year, 20 percent of the corn would be planted by April 20,” he said. “This year that number was closer to 5 percent.”

While it’s something a lot of people outside agriculture don’t spend too much time thinking about, soil temperature is one of the key factors when it comes to a healthy corn crop later in the season.

Corn planted in cold soils can have trouble germinating and emerging from the ground. Much like anything else, if the corn doesn’t get off to a strong start it’s going to come back and bite producers later in the season.

By waiting until soil temperatures have warmed up, growers stand a better chance of a better crop later in the season.

As for what effect the late planting could have on final yields, Cossey warned that it was too early to tell.

“Every year is different,” he said. “We likely won’t know the effect of the late plantings until it’s time for harvest.”

It’s the same wait-and-see approach that producers are going to have to take before they can get a good idea on their winter wheat harvest.

Several hard freezes over the past few weeks have burned the wheat crop in western parts of the state, causing a good amount of visible damage. However, many are urging growers to not act too rashly.

The damage is largely going to be determined by how far along the wheat had progressed in the maturation process.

If it had matured to the point where tillers were out, then the damage is probably pretty severe. If the wheat was planted later, and is not as mature, there is still a good chance it will be fine.

It won’t be until the plants develop further that the full scope is known.

“As the air temperatures moderate, we’ll begin to see what the real story is on this crop,” Cossey said.

One thing is clear – the cold is going to be felt economically. The greater the damage, the smaller the yields.

There has been some good that traded off with the bad, mostly in the form of desperately needed moisture.

“Any time rain is forecast, we all have a little more hope that we can grow a crop,” Cossey said. “The eastern edge of our territory (into Sedgwick County) received some rain, and although it’s delayed planting, I don’t think anyone is complaining too much.”

Mark Vierthaler is director of MP2 Communications, a division of Serv-Tech Inc. More about the company can be found at www.servi-techinc.com.

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