Behind the snows and the cold clouds and penetrating winds and icy mud tracks, rapidly and stealthily sneaking up on us is spring.
In less than three weeks it will be here officially. Already this year appears to be a lot different from last year’s spring, which began a day or two into January. Really, everything was between two and three weeks ahead of normal in development, from California strawberries to Kansas wheat and grandma’s tomatoes, providing she planted them earlier than her usual date, which is often a wise and conservative May 6.
The two snowstorms that came through often didn’t work in tandem to deliver the full measure possible, but good moisture came from them ranging from one-quarter of an inch up to two inches. Anything was good at this point and more is needed.
Kansas State University wheat expert Jim Shroyer was quoted in the online wheat growers’ newsletter as indicating there are still good prospects for wheat in the all important north-central, central and south-central districts. The state is divided in three tiers of three districts each. The eastern one-third was also said to have good prospects, but that region is usually lightly planted in wheat, growers opting instead for corn and soybeans. The central three crop districts always together lead the far west and the east.
The westernmost third region, also a hefty production mainstay, was not listed as having remaining good prospects, and some farmers in northwest Kansas were quoted as saying the last time they saw any wheat was last fall when they put in the grain drills bins. That’s a long time in the dust.
For gardeners who will try with their own produce to freshen their handouts from Harvesters, potato planting time is right on us. A year ago at this time the daring folks were putting them in the ground, along with lettuce, spinach, radishes and other early delicacies. Last year tomatoes were going in as early as mid-April, and plants that were ordered in advance and waiting to be picked up by the end of April, often were too large by then for ideal transplanting. Lots of things were messed up and it never did rain much last summer. Irrigation was a must for gardens. The heat was torrid with afternoon temperatures routinely above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Protective foliage was a must.
It was nothing short of a tribute to agricultural scientists and modern farmers that so much was harvested against such odds last summer and fall. This time, though, there are far fewer inches of water in the subsoil (we’ll need an inch every Saturday night during the growing season) and the world’s people need to eat each day.
Even with the rapid expansion in the last 15 years or so of the competitive South American soybean production, the outlook for fair prices for much of 2013 remains decent. Kansas State’s Dan O’Brien, an ag economist, said in his soybean market outlook that one scenario just ahead uses a large domestic yield of 3.465 billion bushels with an ending stocks-to-use ratio of 7.5 percent, with prices between $10.25 and $11.75 a bushel for the 2013-14 marketing year. Another scenario with lots fewer beans has prices around $14 a bushel, but most analysts are thinking there will be many beans from here and abroad.
Jim Suber can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org