Field Reports: Rains Good, but Planting Delayed - UNL CropWatch, April 26, 2013

Field Reports: Rains Good, but Planting Delayed - UNL CropWatch, April 26, 2013

Week of April 22-26, 2013

Winter wheat in dry soil

Figure 1. While eastern Nebraska saw April showers, many areas of western and southwest Nebraska came up short, as shown in this field, contributing to further stress on the state's wheat crop. (Photo by Bob Klein)

Soil moisture in winter wheat

Figure 2. There was soil moisture down almost to the 2-foot level in this winter wheat field in Scottsbluff County on Friday, less than half what would be considered a full soil moisture profile.  (Photo by Bob Klein)

Clay Center wheat field

Figure 3. This winter wheat trial near Clay Center, where April showers were bountiful, is showing good progress. (Photo by Stephen Baenziger)

Winter wheat at North Platte

Figure 4.  This winter wheat field at North Platte had little moisture and without rain soon, plants will be struggling to survive. (Photo by Stephen Baenziger)

Bob Klien, Extension Western Nebraska Crops Specialist: Dry conditions over the fall and winter followed by hard freezes in April are taking a toll on wheat in southwest Nebraska and the Panhandle.  In some areas snow cover helped protect plants while in other areas there was little or no snow cover and harsh winds dried soils and plants. Many of these wheat fields looked better a couple weeks ago. The winter injury along with the cold temperatures and high winds have subjected the small wheat plants to a lot of stress, causing some to die. On Friday (April 26) a quick survey of winter wheat fields showed improvements where there had been rain. A soil moisture reading in northern Cheyenne County was at 26 inches, one south of Alliance was at 31.5 inches, and one in western Keith County (going downhill) was at 72 inches.

Stephen Baenziger, UNL Agronomy Professor and Wheat Breeder: In a survey of wheat trials and wheat fields in southeast, south central, and southwest Nebraska on Thursday, condition decreased from great at Clay Center to bad about 180 miles west of there near North Platte. At Clay Center there was some leaf burn in wheat, but nothing to worry about. McCook fields looked remarkably good for the conditions the wheat came through. A few of our test plots have some emergence issues, but most of our fields looked good and the farmer fields looked even better. I have to give credit to the moisture conservation methods our farmers are using -- there really should not have been anything there. At North Platte conditions were the driest I have ever seen, worse than the three-year drought in the Sandhills several years ago. Some of the hills (really sand dunes now) almost looked as if in a good wind they might start moving again.  (Follow updates from Baenziger on Twitter at @Huskerwheat.)

Paul Hay, Extension Educator in Gage County: We saw a few snow flurries on Monday and received 3/4 inch of rain. An unofficial record here shows we received 6.75 inches of rain in April at Beatrice. We had great general rains across the county ranging from 6 to 7 inches. Planting hasn't started here, which is quite a change from last year when a lot of the corn had been planted and some farmers had already moved on to their soybeans by this time. Some farmers are getting a little nervous about the delay in planting; however, with the size of equipment today, we can plant a lot of acres in a relatively short time. The bigger challenge may be for the co-ops to keep up with the demand for spraying, spreading fertilizer, etc.

Gary Stone, Extension Educator at the Panhandle REC in Scottsbluff, and Jim Schild, Extension Educator in Scotts Bluff County:  The water situation in the Panhandle, specifically the North Platte Valley, is looking much better following recent storms. Soil moisture is much improved as we received approximately 2 inches of precipitation. Soil moisture is good in the top foot and possibly the second foot; at depths of 3 and 4 feet the soil is still dry. Snow water equivalent in the North Platte River basins in Wyoming are very much improved. Snow water equivalent levels are: Upper North Platte Basin, 97%; Sweetwater Basin, 81%; Lower North Platte Basin, 93%; and the Laramie River Basin, 104%. The South Platte River Basin in Colorado is reported at 129%, but the number is suspect. We still have cool temperatures (and wind) with a slight warming trend for the end of the week. Less than 10% of sugarbeets have been planted and some field peas have been planted. Soil temperatures are 10 degrees behind on this date from last year and we have less than half of the growing degree days we had at the same time last year.

Historical corn yields in York County

Figure 5. Average corn yields in York County.

Historical corn yields in York County

Figure 6. Average Soybean Yields in York County.

Gary Zoubek, Extension Educator in York County:  What a difference a week makes. Earlier this week I checked soil moisture sensors in several dryland fields. Saturday when I checked there was full moisture in the top foot, little in the second foot and none below 20 inches. When I tested on Thursday, the soil was wet down to 34-36 inches. With recent rains if we get average moisture of 21.5 inches from January to August, our chances of reaching yield trends in dryland corn are good.

Over the years I’ve been charting the York County NASS corn and soybean yields (Figures 5 and 6). Our irrigated yields continue to increase. Since 1949 irrigated corn yields have gone up on average about 2.27 bu/ac/year. Since 1974 irrigated soybean yields have gone up by about 0.73 bu/ac/year. I’ve also plotted our dryland yields compared to the January through August rainfall since 1985 for both corn and soybeans. Since 1985 our average precipitation from January through August has been about 21.5 inches. When we receive that much or more we typically have some good rainfed yields. This year it looks like we'll be starting a little short of a full soil moisture profile, making it harder to predict the outcome.

USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service Nebraska Field Office: For the week ending April 21, cold temperatures combined with precipitation in the form of snow and rain put a halt to spring fieldwork. Soil moisture supplies in the east showed improvement; however, western counties received 0.5 inch or less of moisture during the week, doing little to build soil profiles. Pastures continued to show little growth, forcing producers to draw on already short forage supplies. Statewide, topsoil moisture supplies rated 10% very short, 31% short, 56% adequate, and 3% surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies rated 49% very short, 41% short, 10% adequate, and 0% surplus. Wheat condition improved slightly from last week and was rated 13% very poor, 30% poor, 46% fair, 11% good, and 0% excellent. Approximately five percent of the wheat crop had jointed, behind last year’s 56% and the average of 18%. About 69% of the oat crop had been planted, behind last year’s 84% and the average of 70%. Eighteeen percent of the crop had emerged, behind 47% this time last year and the average of 26%.