Typical Kansas Augusts are full of sunshine, but the first few days of the month in Douglas County this year have been drenched with rain. The unusual weather has created challenges for some crops, but compared to the droughts in western Kansas and flooding in south-central and south-eastern Kansas this summer, Douglas County farmers have it pretty good.
Bill Wood, director of Kansas State University Research and Extension’s Douglas County office, said that while rain is a welcome relief from the summer heat, some farmers are ready for the dreary weather to clear up.
“It sure has been nice to get this rain in August, which we don’t normally get,” Wood said. “But I think most are ready for it to quit so they can get some hay put up and get some sunshine to grow our crops.”
Many farmers have let their hayfields grow until the rain lets up. It takes about four to five days for freshly cut hay to dry out in the field before it can be baled, so the daily drizzles of the past few weeks have made it difficult to produce quality hay.
The extra moisture has also hurt some Douglas County soybean production. While the legumes typically thrive in lots of rain, Wood said parts of the county are not taking the extra moisture well.
“There are a few areas around the Wakarusa and Kansas Rivers that are pretty flat and cause problems,” Wood said. “The soil can only hold so much rain, so when it accumulates on the flat land, puddles form and drown the soybeans.”
However, Wood said the rain has galvanized soybean production nearer sloping landscapes. The extra water encourages flowering, which is necessary for pod growth.
“Soybeans love the rain. They have really been growing and flowering in it,” Wood said. “And when the crops flower, they get pollinated, which grows the soybean.”
Corn crops are also benefitting from soaking up the recent rainfalls after taking a hard hit last month. Woods said corn only pollinates for about one week, and this year it happened to be the July week of 100-degree temperatures.
“The hotter it gets (during corn pollination week), the lower the yield potential,” Wood said. “It may look like you have fields of green corn, but there are no kernels inside.”
For the corn that did develop, August’s stretch of daily rain has helped production. When corn crops are not stressed from a lack of water, they use energy to produce kernels.
“Crops need no stress for maximum yield, so more water gives more growing potential,” Wood said. “But we do need some sun, too, though.”