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Archive for Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Farmers worry about crops as recent rains flood fields

June 15, 2005

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Enough is enough.

That's what many area farmers who are hoping for good wheat, soybean and corn crops are saying about rain, including Douglas County farmer Norman Leary, who has been getting a workout just emptying his rain gauge.

"I've dumped 10 1/2 inches of rain now since the first of June," Leary said Tuesday from his farm just south of Lawrence. "We've had more than enough."

Although it hasn't rained since Sunday, Leary still has water standing in three soybean fields, and he is starting to worry.

"I don't know what is going to happen," Leary said. "I don't know how long soybeans can go with water on them. Where the water has drained off, it looks pretty good."

After experiencing a dry early spring, the Lawrence area and much of Kansas has seen torrential and persistent rainstorms that have caused flooding, especially in eastern Kansas. Areas to the south of Lawrence have received more rain than areas to the north.

At Lawrence Municipal Airport north of town, where the city's official weather records are measured, a total of 6.87 inches of rain had fallen from June 1 to Monday. That's more than double the average rainfall for Lawrence during that period, which is 2.56 inches, said 6News chief meteorologist Matt Sayers.

And thanks to June rains, Lawrence's precipitation level for the year as of Monday was 19.94 inches, more than 3 inches above average, Sayers said.

Over most of Douglas County flooding hasn't been a major problem, said Bill Wood, Kansas State University agricultural extension agent. The problems have been on low level ground or around parts of the Kansas River, he said.


Farmer Norman Leary checks on his corn plants at his field Tuesday south of Lawrence. Parts of Leary's crop are suffering from the recent heavy rainfall as water has pooled in his fields near the Wakarusa River and U.S. Highway 59.

Farmer Norman Leary checks on his corn plants at his field Tuesday south of Lawrence. Parts of Leary's crop are suffering from the recent heavy rainfall as water has pooled in his fields near the Wakarusa River and U.S. Highway 59.

This area and much of Kansas experienced similar conditions this time last year, yet corn farmers still ended the season with record-breaking harvests, he said. That followed two years of devastating drought.

"I guess, in my opinion, it is better to have too much water than not enough," Wood said. "Ideally we would like to save the last six inches (of rain) for August, but we can't do that."

The problems have been worse in Franklin County, where the Maris des Cygnes and Pottawattomie rivers and tributaries have flooded recently. Many of the soybean fields have been under water two or three times, extension agent Darren Hibdon said.

"We've seen a lot of dirt moved because of the force of the rain and there has been a lot of soil erosion," Hibdon said. "Some of those fields will have to be abandoned and torn up."

It is too early, however, to determine what the damage means to farmers in terms of dollars, Hibdon said.

"Most producers will have crop insurance and that will help, but it by no means is a replacement for a lost crop," he said.

If the weather cooperates, wheat harvest should begin in about 10 days in Franklin County, Hibdon said. The rains will have caused weed problems in wheat fields and wheat moisture contents will probably be higher than normal, he said.

Franklin County and other counties to the south were still under a flood watch Tuesday. There is reason for optimism, however. No rain is expected for several days, and high temperatures will be in the 80s.

State weather officials say there is no clear picture of whether temperatures and rainfall will be above or below normal for the rest of the spring and summer. Sayers thinks the temperatures for Lawrence will be above normal and precipitation will be average during that period. The average temperature for July 1 is 89, and that increases to 91 by July 31, Sayers said. Average precipitation is 4 inches for July and 3.81 for August, he said.

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