Archive for Wednesday, May 24, 2000

Drought threatens farmers in area

May 24, 2000

Although a few raindrops fell on the Tonganoxie area early this month, the drought continues. And farmers are feeling the effects.

"There's still no subsoil moisture," said Karen McGraw, whose family farms in the area.

"We've quit planting corn," said her husband, Mike McGraw. "It's so dry it's not going to germinate."

This is common throughout the area, he said.

"I think all the farmers in Leavenworth County that I've talked to have quit planting, and it's not just here it's all over northeastern Kansas," McGraw said.

McGraw, 51, has been farming five miles north of Tonganoxie since he graduated from high school.

"This is the worst I've ever seen it," McGraw said. "This year was the driest April I've ever seen."

At the McGraw farm five miles north of Tonganoxie where Karen McGraw keeps track of the weather for seed companies, McGraw said that from mid-March to the first of May, only 0.35 of an inch of rain had fallen.

Last Friday afternoon, Scott Theno and his father, Bill Theno, were planting soybeans near Stranger Creek.

"This ground here might have enough moisture to get them to come up," Theno said.

The corn they planted in April didn't get a good start, he said.

"It's real spotty as far as getting a start, but the rains with the storm that hit Tonganoxie got most of it going," Theno said.

Theno, who has been farming since 1983, said he's never seen a drought this early in the season.

"We've been dry since the middle of March," he said. "It just shut off and we haven't had hardly any rain since."

Russell Plaschka, who farms and who teaches agricultural education at Tonganoxie High School, looked at the ground that's already starting to crack and said, "We need rain."

"We're in dire straits now," Plaschka said. "If we continue for a week or so with no rain there's going to be some corn starting to suffer."

The soybean crop, too, will be hurt.

"If you plant the soybeans in moisture and if it dries out they'll swell and split and die right there," he said.

On the other hand, Plaschka said it's a risk to plant the soybeans in dry soil.

"If soybeans sit in dry dirt for a while, that dirt will suck the oil out of the bean and it will have a real hard time germinating after that," Plaschka said.

Last week's weather brought a half-inch of rain on Tuesday, but little more after that.

"What we need now are slow, drenching rains, Plaschka said. "Timely rains, like an inch of rain every week."

If the drought keeps up, livestock producers will be hurt, too.

"The grass looks good now but it's going to start drying up," Plaschka said. "We're going to have short grass if we don't get some rain."

McGraw agreed.

"We're probably going to have a shortage of hay," he said. "The brome grass is in dire need of rain right now."

McGraw's son, Travis, who also farms, said a big rain, such as a 3-inch gully washer, could be too much of a good thing.

"That could be just as bad as no rain," he said.

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