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Weather affecting crops, livestock

By Rose Schneider

Abrupt rises and falls in temperature and precipitation don’t just wear on people; they also take a toll on crops and livestock.

The state of Kansas has had some bizarre weather this spring including the mini-snow storm Manhattan saw earlier this week and the larger winter storm that hit the area April 9 and 10. The unseasonable weather may have affected area crops.

“I anticipate seeing some damage from the freeze that happened Tuesday and Wednesday of this week,” said James Shroyer, Kansas State University professor of agronomy. “It got cold enough with the wheat at a vulnerable stage; it wouldn’t have wiped any out, but it could have done some damage.”

Shroyer said he thinks the Manhattan area was lucky, for the most part.

“Manhattan dodged the bullet because it wasn’t cold enough long enough to do serious damage.”

According to Greg McClure, agricultural extension agent at K-State, temperatures need to be below 24 degrees for more than two hours in order to hurt crops in the joint stage — the time when the wheat heads emerge from the ground —before they grow into a more stable crop.

Slow-developing pastures are a bigger concern right now than a short-lived freeze, he said.

“Alfalfa growth has slowed down, and corn isn’t planted where we’d be planting now if we could,” McClure said.

Part of the problem with planting certain crops, like corn, right now is that the ground hasn’t reached a plantable temperature, even though the Manhattan area has seen its share of warm days.

The soil must be at or above 50 degrees to facilitate healthy plant growth. Planting in cold, wet dirt would make seeds susceptible to disease, rot and microorganisms. It can also slow down the germination process, Shroyer said.

Despite the fact that the weather has limited some planting it “isn’t a big issue yet,” Shroyer said.

So far, it has only been delayed roughly a week for farmers.

McClure pointed out that the moist weather isn’t all bad.

“The precipitation will help bone grass and pastures,” Shroyer said.

Healthy pastures in turn help create healthy livestock, which are also struggling with the damp and varying spring weather.

McClure has also recently spoken to some farmers and found that many are dealing with scour (diarrhea) problems with their newborn cows due to changes in the weather, among other things.

“Weather like we had Wednesday is really tough on calves and newborns,” said McClure. “Once they get wet and cold, it is really tough on them.”

This would also be about the time that farmers would hope to produce grasses and hay for profit and for their own animals. However, the extended cool period has made it hard for many, especially after the past two years of drought had already left supplies short.

“On the positive side, the water has filled some ponds,” McClure said. “We had a number of farmers with land that was dry enough that they were hauling water for their cattle; hopefully this summer they won’t have to do that.”

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