Que sera, sera
Regardless of the location across Kansas, this fall has served up ideal harvest conditions. Many producers report they are ahead of schedule with the 2011 harvest. Seldom are the temperatures this mild, the humidity this low and the weather this dry during this time of year.
In Clay County, Josh Lloyd finished cutting his corn and most of his soybeans, and he’s putting the finishing touches on approximately 700 acres of milo. His milo crop has averaged approximately 100 bushels per acre as did the dry-land corn.
Lloyd and his father are happy with this year’s yields considering the hot and dry growing season this summer.
“We’re still learning about corn in our cropping rotation,” Josh says. “The feeling in this region of the state is that you can’t grow corn and there’ve been years when 40-bushels-per-acre corn was a good crop.”
Soybean yields weren’t so good although they did match the Lloyd’s APH (average production history) of 35-bushels-per-acre. Double crop soybeans did not fare as well and Josh says one of these fields may not be worth harvesting.
This seems to be the case with double-cropped beans in most of this region of the state, he says.
“We’ve saved the double-crop beans ’till last,” the Clay County farmer says. “In addition to the hot, dry weather this summer, the variety we planted was a short season and this probably contributed to our lack of success.”
Still the Lloyds appreciate the crops they’ve been fortunate to harvest. They understand there are plenty of regions in Kansas where harvest was a complete bust because of even less moisture and continuous days of 100-degree heat this summer.
One production practice the Lloyds have been using for more than a decade is blending two varieties of milo when they plant. They generally plant a high yielding variety with a drought resistant variety.
“We never know what kind of year it will be and this helps spread our risk of a crop failure,” Josh says. “During the last decade we’ve seen plenty of advantages with a blend of milo seeds.”
The Lloyds are blending their wheat seed also. Here they combine three varieties and this has worked out to their advantage as well.
While many producers in this region of the state were planting more wheat acres, the Clay County grain grower planted fewer acres. His thinking was if he planted more acres of wheat he’d have to raise a more productive crop than his average yields to come out better than the production levels for corn, milo and soybeans on their farm.
“It may work out for all those producers who’ve planted more wheat,” Josh says. “I hope it does because right now the crop is looking good around this region of the state. Maybe I should have planted our entire farm to wheat.”
Even so, the Lloyds would rather not put all of their eggs in one basket. They’d rather play the averages based on their many years of cropping history.
“I’m not sure wheat is any safer of a bet, even in a dry year,” Josh says. “This year reinforced this thinking when we were able to make our APH yields with our row crops.”
Until next year and especially next summer, the young Clay County producer is looking forward to the approaching cooler weather. He knows rain comes slower at this time of year and generally finds its way into the soil unlike the hard rains of summer that tend to partially run off the land and cannot be utilized as efficiently.
“I can’t say what’s going to happen next year, next week or even the following day,” Josh says. “All we can do is do our best — watch and learn from past experiences. The future will be what it will be.”
— John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. He was raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas.