Archive for Wednesday, July 2, 2003

Looking good

In contrast with last two years, county’s corn and wheat crops robust

July 2, 2003

The third year just might be the charm. At least Leavenworth County farmers hope so.

Two years ago, rainfall and then flood waters from Stranger Creek and its many tributaries saturated crops.

Last year, corn stalks withered under the strain of drought.

With a history like that, one wonders what could come next. Grasshoppers? Blight? Perfect conditions?

Now that's a concept.

But it appears that the Leavenworth County wheat and corn crops are well on their way to coming in beautifully.

And farmers are -- almost -- breathing a sigh of relief.

"We really had two years in a row that were pretty bad years," said farmer Mike McGraw. "I think most of the farmers in this area have got to have a crop this year or they'll have to hang it up."

Although it's really too early to declare this a bumper corn crop, McGraw, who farms extensively in Leavenworth County, is optimistic.

And for a 54-year-old farmer, optimism is almost unheard of.

"The corn looks the best I've seen in a long time," McGraw said. "We've had adequate moisture. Of course, we've got to go through July yet. It's hard to tell what's going to happen in July."

McGraw is hoping for one or two more rains. But he knows the rain gods usually go on vacation in July.

At least the subsoil moisture level is far better than it was last year.

And the wheat looks good, too. On Tuesday, McGraw planned to start harvesting the comparatively small amount of wheat he grows.

At Murrfield Farms northwest of Tonganoxie, Joy Murr said Tuesday that she and her husband, Bill, just got started harvesting wheat.

"It looks very good," Joy Murr said. "The test weight is really good. The protein is high."

Neighbors, she said, are talking about 60- to 70-bushel wheat.

"We haven't had that in a long time," she said. "I think it ought to be a really good wheat crop this year."

Murrfield Farms plants about 550 acres in wheat and another 600 in corn. Roughly 300 acres of soybeans and 100 acres of milo round out the operation.

The corn fields are lush and green this year -- in sharp contrast to last year's stubby, brown stalks.

"We've had enough rains along to keep everything really green and growing," Joy Murr said. "Last year at this time, we were already really dry in June."

The wetter weather does have some unwanted byproducts. McGraw, for example, has spent several days spraying his soybean fields.

"The weeds are taking off with all of this rain," he said.

Last year at this time, McGraw was contemplating selling off his acreage to developers and abandoning his vocation. This year, the crop outlook is far brighter -- "about 10 times better than last year," McGraw says -- but he's planning to sell 80 acres south of Tonganoxie near Reno.

"For what we can get for some of this land, it's kind of stupid to sit out here and farm it," he said.

But it's clear he loves farming -- particularly corn farming -- and this year it's easy to understand why.

"I'd rather raise corn than any other crop when it's like this," McGraw said. "This year, it's tall. It looks really good."

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