Extreme drought persists as W. Kan. farmers try to grow spring crops

With no meaningful rain in over 200 days, farmers in western Kansas say they're struggling to grow their spring crops.
Published: Mar. 27, 2023 at 5:26 PM CDT
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GOVE COUNTY, Kan. (KWCH) - Western Kansas farmers are trying to grow their spring crops as they’ve surpassed 200 days with no meaningful rain. Every bit of moisture helps, but there hasn’t been near enough consistent, steady rainfall to improve the extreme drought.

Near Grainfield in Gove County, farmer Eric Gassman’s wheat field is supposed to be soft and full of moisture.

Gassman said there’s one main reason why it’s not.

“The last rain that we had over a half inch, at least over my farmstead, was June 24 of 2021,” he said.

As for the total rainfall, Gassman said the situation isn’t much better.

“Over the last 20, almost 21 months now, we’re up to 10-and-a-half inches and our annual rainfall is usually about 17 inches in a year,” he said.

Gassman said without the proper rain his farm needs, the soil will remain dry and the wheat could be gone in a few months.

“They need moisture and what moisture is left in the soil, it’s going to suck it out and not replenish it. Then it’s just going to die,” he said.

While it’s a gamble, Gassman said for now, he’ll keep planting as usual.

“Right now, we’re planning on putting our normal amount of corn and milo out, but if it stays dry, we might take the corn away because it’s a little more water-intensive,” he said.

Gassman said all he can do is hope for the best.

“Ideally, we would all like to have a half inch every week, one day and then be about six days dry and then do it over again,” he said.

If the rains don’t come, at least on his land, Gassman said they’ll turn the fields into grazing for cattle.