Archive for Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Late winter could benefit area farmers next season

April 2, 2013

The heavy snowfall that stretched into the early spring might have brought frustration to residents longing for warmer days, but winter precipitation has been a welcome sight to farmers.

Steve McNorton, agriculture and natural resources agent for Leavenworth County K-State Research and Extension, said some areas had near 30 inches of snow. On average, it takes 10 inches of snow to equal about one inch of rain. He said that can vary if the snow is more dense, and noted he thought recent snows had more density.

He said the area should be in much better shape in the coming months compared with last year, when much of northeast Kansas had less than 3 1/2 inches of snowfall.

“Every little bit helps and gets us off to a better start than we were last year,” McNorton said.

That type of precipitation has other benefits, he said. As snow melts, the moisture is released slower and absorbed better in the soil.

“The majority of the moisture is absorbed, as opposed to heavy rain,” McNorton said.

Both a heavy rain and snow will lead to runoff, but with snow and its slow release, the majority will be absorbed in the soil, McNorton said.

Though some residents might prefer an early spring, the longer winter can help with root development under the ground, especially with winter wheat.

McNorton predicts that the late winter won’t adversely affect the growing season.

“Even though we’ve had the first day of spring, it’s still a little early, especially this part of the state,” McNorton said. “Any scheduled planting probably won’t be affected by this and no concerns with a freeze or frost killing any vegetation. Everything still is dormant.”

Winter wheat generally is planted in October and goes dormant through the winter. It’s generally harvested in late June.

Corn generally is planted in early April and soybeans in early May, McNorton said.

It’s anyone’s guess whether the area will continue to receive precipitation in the spring and summer, but some meteorologists’ guesses indicate a dryer than normal spring and summer, which would prolong the drought, though he said he didn’t think they anticipated the late winter the area experienced.

“Maybe this is a sign of things changing,” McNorton said. “I sure hope so.

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