Lack of moisture in soil threatening wheat crop

By A Contributor

Some things folks just don’t want to talk about, or be reminded about, or hear anything more about for a while. Dry periods are one; projected U.S. Department of Agriculture budgets that cut farm subsidies are another; another bum topic is more regulations on businesses; and higher taxes probably qualify in spades. Many are already burned out on the election campaigns with nine-plus months to go.

A bigger threat to the Kansas wheat crop than the recent warm spell is the lack of —that’s right, lack of — subsoil moisture down deep in the fields. Fall rains and snows provided some much needed topsoil moisture to get a crop up and growing, but generally there is still a nagging lack of moisture in the subsoil a few inches down, according to Kansas State University wheat expert Jim Shroyer.

Shroyer told the industry about the lack of moisture being a greater potential problem than the recent warm period, when some wheat in southern Kansas actually grew a little after greening up. As long as most nights see a return to below freezing, the wheat will be all right, he said, in terms of retaining its winter hardiness.

It is to be hoped that other growing things will retain their hardiness as well. But hey, this is Kansas, as we all love to say about the extremes in weather and climate here. I always liked the pithy remark an old-timer quoted 30 years ago to me from his childhood when an old-timer then told my old-timer 60 years earlier when my friend was a lad: “Never has a place promised so much but delivered so little.”

If that didn’t suggest how difficult it was 90 years ago to raise good crops and livestock in the face of the natural prevailing extremes of wind, heat, cold, drought and floods, I don’t know what could.

But I digressed again. Been known to do that. Sorry.

Farm bill cuts to farmer subsidies mentioned by the administration in the halls of the recent national Farm Bureau convention ranged from $25 billion to $75 billion. Presumably, that would be over a period of some years, because there is no way they spend that much per year on farmers now. It probably is for 10 years.  Not mentioned were any cuts in three-fourths of the agency’s budget covering food welfare programs, the old food stamps and school meals deals that annually cost well over $100 billion! I had that in an earlier column in this space some weeks ago.

I heard a report on a business news channel that if the old Bush tax cuts are not restored, it will mean a loss of 1.5 points off the annual GDP rate. That would be a very significant slow down in an already anemic economy.

And without even talking about general business and industry, agricultural enterprises like row cropping, animal feeding, agronomic and chemical service providers, forest managers and anyone else associated with producing food and fiber to feed and clothe 310 million Americans are constantly under the guns leveled at them by environmental activists who regard regular country road dust with horror and exhausts from engines.

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