Drought concerns grow in central, western Kansas

Central, western Kansas dealing with drought
Published: Dec. 2, 2021 at 6:59 PM CST
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DORRANCE, Kan. (KWCH) - Drought conditions in western Kansas are growing dire. Some areas, like northwest Kansas, are about five inches below normal for rainfall this year, and it could mean trouble for crops like winter wheat.

Dorrance farmer Nate Pasek says area farmers try to get their wheat started by mid-September, and even allow their livestock to graze on the wheat. But this year, the moisture needed to do that is missing.

The concern isn’t as great in central Kansas, but Pasek says that could change if it doesn’t rain in over the 30 to 45 days. He says the subsoil will struggle to build back up by spring if there is no rain.

“So far, we’ve had a pretty warm winter, and the longer it stays warm the crops continue to grow, which uses more moisture. Normally by now, our crops are kind of dormant and just hanging on until it warms back up in the spring, but right now, they haven’t been told to shut down yet, so they’re still pulling moisture out of the ground and trying to grow,” said Pasek.

Salina had its last recorded rainfall over a month ago, and the latest drought map shows the situation worsening the farther west you go.

“I got some guys in Colorado I have sold some hay to just to help them out and keep them moving. And I talked to them guys and they are still way behind on moisture,” said Pasek.

Guorong Zhang with the Kansas State Agricultural Research Center in Hays says the drought situation in Kansas is the worst he’s seen in ten years - for this time of the year.

“I hope the weather can cool down a little bit so the wheat will slow down the growth and then kind of slow down taking up the soil moisture,” said Zhang.

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