Continued drought affecting Neb. Panhandle wheat
The Kimball County site is in fair condition, but crop emergence is variable, according to Santra, who said this was common.
In western Scotts Bluff County near the Wyoming state line, seeds were planted as deep as possible, in hopes of reaching subsurface stored moisture. There was zero emergence, probably because of dry soil, he said. Nearby farmers’ fields also look empty, Santra said. “It looks like they’ll have to replant with a spring crop,” he said.
At UNL’s High Plains Ag Laboratory near Sidney, wheat variety plots “are in fair to good condition, but there is significant variation in emergence and plant growth, primarily because of soil moisture variability,” he said. “Basically it all comes to amount of soil moisture,” Santra said. “How much was there?”
Around mid-December, Santra observed a number of wheat fields between Scottsbluff and Sidney. He saw many that had been planted late and were lagging in growth stage. The crop is likely to suffer further if winter turns out to be dry, cold, open and windy. But milder temperatures with some moisture in late winter or early spring could allow the crop to catch up, he said.
Where the terrain is hilly, Santra said, wheat stands vary greatly between high and low areas. Around hilltops, emergence is typically around 20%, but in the lower areas it’s more like 80%.
Extension Educator Karen DeBoer of Sidney said wheat condition in the south is dependent on moisture. Some seed emerged, and some rotted in the soil, she said. Some producers reseeded areas earlier in the fall, and more area may be reseeded in the spring if necessary, DeBoer said.
When the crop comes out of dormancy in the spring, producers will need to assess how much of the crop is left and make a decision about whether to reseed, she said.
DeBoer has observed some wheat damage from blowing soil, and said growers might need to do some emergency tillage in the event of a big wind event just to keep the soil from blowing.