For the week of Sept. 5, 2016


A summer to remember


By John Schlageck, Kansas Farm Bureau


   In the east, west, south and north, rain hung in the morning sky. Low-lying fog blanketed the Clark County countryside. At nine o’clock, the temperature inched toward 70 degrees.


   Rains throughout August left puddles in low spots on the gravel roads while pickup trucks carved their (tire) signature in the mud. Black, summer fallow fields ballooned with a full complement of moisture. Puddles and small lagoons brimmed over with water as well.


   During the month of August alone, Clark County farmer/stockman Bruce McKissick reports his crops have received a strong four inches of rain. These rains came an inch and a half one day, 90 hundreds another and one half inch the last of the month.


   With above normal rainfall the last two years, farm life has been a joy in southwestern Kansas. The moisture is truly welcome, especially following four years of drought.


   “It’s amazing to see how adequate rainfall can change the landscape in this country,” McKissick says. “The whole countryside is green, fields and ponds are filled with moisture and we’ve really enjoyed this year. It’s a wonderful change.”


   According to McKissick, soil profiles are full. At the end of August that’s a rare phenomenon in this part of Kansas.            


   For the Clark County wheat farmer this means he and his neighbors will have plenty of moisture to plant this fall. The bumper milo crop will also finish out without any trouble.


   This year’s milo crop is amazing. Mile after mile and field after field of grain sorghum looks as good or better than western Kansas producers can ever remember.


   “The (milo) heads are huge,” McKissick says. “They stand 10 to 12 inches tall.”


   Nearly all the fields look uniform as well. Because of the lush crop vegetation, no rows can be seen in the fields. It’s one solid milo crop.


   “Our milo crop has really never suffered at any time this year,” McKissick continues. “The crop enjoyed a full profile of moisture going into spring planting and it’s received rain all summer. This growing season was perfect.”


   The Clark County farmer walked in some of his milo fields the day before we visited. McKissick says the crop stood four to four and a half feet high. Few weeds sprouted in the crop so far, but aphids continued to munch milo leaves.


   It’s rare to see milo that good, that tall and that uniform, he says. Ironically, last year’s crop averaged 100 bushels per acre and McKissick believes 2016 could be as good or better with yields from 120 -130 bushels per acre.


   The Clark County farmer does not plant dryland corn. He considers doing so too risky.


   The same goes for soybeans. Although if McKissick knew crops would have received moisture like this year, planting them could have paid off.


   He prefers to stick with milo and winter wheat and this year’s crop did not disappoint.


   “We harvested a 70-bushel wheat crop this year,” McKissick says. “Although we began in June and finished in August.”


   That said, this crop averaged 20 bushels-per-acre better than any other crop the Clark County farmer ever raised.


   “This year’s wheat crop was the best,” he says. “I credit that to the good Lord.”


John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.