Archive for Friday, January 31, 2014

Douglas County and eastern Kansas abnormally dry again, west in drought

January 31, 2014

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After a brief reprieve in the fall, Douglas County and eastern Kansas are again facing dry conditions, with much of the western part of the state in drought.

Douglas County saw normal moisture levels in November for the first time since the 2012 drought, the worst in the U.S. in more than 25 years. But the break didn't last long. By the end of the November, the U.S. Drought Monitor again listed Douglas County as abnormally dry.

By Jan. 28, every county in eastern Kansas had joined Douglas in abnormally dry conditions. And all of western Kansas is once again in drought, with some areas in the northwest and southwest listed in extreme drought.

"It is dry," said Bill Wood, director of the Douglas County Extension office. "If we'd been talking about it in November, I'd say soil levels were in good shape."

Although the county has seen snow over the winter, it was mostly light and fluffy, rather than heavy and wet, which would have added more moisture to the ground.

For area farmers, what "abnormally dry" means depends on what they planted and when. Wood has seen some farm acreage with dry top soil and cracks starting to form. That can be a problem for crops currently in the ground, as the cracks let in cold that can harm a plant's root system.

Wheat that went in during the early fall is more mature at this point and hardy enough to withstand the cold and dry weather for now.

Mark Wulfkuhle, who farms and raises livestock on land near Stull, planted his wheat in September and October. "About that time we had pretty good moisture," Wulfkuhle said. His wheat lies dormant now to ride out the winter, "but I'm not saying it won't have some problem later" if the dry conditions keep up, he said.

At the moment the biggest potential problems for Wulfkuhle are the water levels in the ponds and streams that his cattle drink from. For now he is cautiously watching water levels and waiting for precipitation. "When we go out to pasture and start grazing in the spring and summer, that's when it becomes an issue," he said.

Wood notes that 2013 also started out with a dry January, with effects of the 2012 drought carrying over. Wet weather in the spring delayed planting but helped restore moisture to the soil.

"Nature can help us out if it brings the rain and brings it at the right time," Wood said.

Comments

Ken Lassman 1 year, 2 months ago

Interesting article, Chris. Sam is suggesting a kind of wildlife cap and trade program in order to keep the lesser prairie chicken off the endangered species list: http://www.thehabitatexchange.org/files/2013/05/FINAL-LANDOWNER-INFO.pdf

Maybe he'll now come out supporting a carbon cap and trade, or carbon fee and dividend program, no? Seems like if he thinks it works for chickens, he ought to think it would work for carbon emissions, too, right?

Leslie Swearingen 1 year, 2 months ago

There is no such thing as Nature. I would suggest learning some science facts as to why it rains and why other weather events happen. Science rules!

Ken Lassman 1 year, 2 months ago

I have no idea what you are getting at, Les. Is not the entire universe Nature? Science is a wonderful tool for making sense of the universe, but the universe and therefore Nature is so much deeper, faster, slower, prolific, austere and any other descriptor you care to add, than our scientific understanding of it is. We are learning by leaps and bounds, and will hopefully continue to do so through the tools that science has in its bag of discernment, but we're still just scratching the surface. My favorite quote of late is:

The larger the island of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of wonder. Ralph W. Sockman

Richard Heckler 1 year, 2 months ago

Much of Kansas has been closing out in a drought for several of the past consecutive years if my memory is still working.

Stealing water from the Missouri river for western Kansas is ludicrous.

Water conservation and extreme mulching should be the order of the day. Perhaps lawns will want to get downsized in favor of a more self sustaining approach. I cannot remember Kansas ever having unlimited supplies of water.

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