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  • Last modified 125 days ago (March 15, 2018)

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County shares in historic drought woes

Staff writer

After a dry 2016-17 winter, this winter has proven to be even worse, raising concerns on multiple fronts.

The period of November through January was the driest statewide since 1895, when records first started being kept, according to the Kansas Water Office.

The U.S. Corp of Engineers at Marion Reservoir recorded .84 of precipitation in the 3-month period from November through February. This compares with 2.81 inches during the same period in 2016-17.

Assistant lake manager Kevin McCoy at Marion Reservoir said the lake level remains unchanged since a two-foot drawdown in late November.

He is betting on spring rains to refill the lake.

“It is as it should be at this time of year, and a simple rain shower can bring it back up,” he said.

Jana Dalke of Serenity Gardens said it looks like shrubs and trees in yards and gardens will come out of dormancy OK, but plants in pots may not do well.

She said she irrigated her lawn late into the fall and will be starting to irrigate again soon.

“I like to have a nice, green lawn for my customers,” she said.

She noted that gardeners don’t face a problem with dry weather because they can use water hoses to establish plantings.

Things aren’t that simple on the farm. The lack of rain has the biggest impact on agriculture producers. Grain farmers depend on rainfall to provide moisture for wheat crops and spring planting.

According to the latest USDA crop condition report, the Kansas wheat crop is rated at 15 percent very poor, 35 percent poor, 37 percent fair, 12 percent good, and 1 percent excellent.

Wheat stands vary from field to field, with earlier planted wheat looking better but all fields are extremely dry.

Wendell Wedel of Durham said farmers in the northwest part of the county say the wheat needs rain, but they haven’t seen signs of winterkill or aren’t expecting to lose acres yet, although the yield may be affected, he said.

“They may hold off on top-dressing the wheat,” he added.

The lack of rain is a major concern for livestock producers, as well. The drought is keeping cool-season grasses that provide early grazing from greening. The drought also has the potential to retard the growth of native pasture.

This has resulted in farmers needing to feed hay longer than usual and supplies becoming tight.

Donnie Hett of Marion said his ponds are getting low and he might need more hay.

“We need moisture badly,” he said.

Last modified March 15, 2018

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