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Warm temperatures and heavy rain in early December have helped with the growth of winter wheat in Hardin County and helped with soil preparation for spring planting.
Farmers also are planting more wheat than is typical for the area, said Matt Adams, a Hardin County Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources. Wheat is used for grain-based foods and livestock feed.
The 2.38 inches of rain recorded during the first nine days of December outstripped the 1.23 inches that fell in November and nearly matches the 2.64 inches that fell through all of October, according to data from the Mesonet weather station in Cecilia.
Also, average temperatures didn’t dip below the 40s and got into the 70s one day in the first 10 days of December, according to Mesonet.
The drier-than-usual October and November helped with the completion of spring crop harvests while causing slow growth and germination, Adams said.
Typically, winter wheat is planted in harvested corn fields in mid-to-late October. The wheat ger-minates and sprouts before going dormant for the winter. It continues to grow in the spring and is ready to be harvested near the end of June, in time to plant soybeans after the harvest.
Larry Thomas, who farms throughout the county, said his wheat had been growing slowly, but has pushed through the soil, which is good enough to expect the crop to begin well in the spring. Too much growth now could hurt the crop during winter.
His son, Mark Thomas, planted more wheat than usual to try to recoup some of the losses from his corn crop earlier this year and to take advantage of wheat’s high price.
Dry conditions in parts of the country more known for wheat production have pushed the price of wheat relatively high, Adams said.
Farmers across the nation also are trying to make up some of their losses from the scorched corn crops. There is no reliable average at this point for corn yields, but they were much lower than usual, Adams said.
“Overall, corn was very poor, and everyone expected that,” he said.
Some later-planted corn fared better, and its price is high, Adams said.
The recovery of the more resilient soybean plants also helped recoup some of the losses. Area farmers often plant half corn and half soybeans and alternate the fields in which they’re planted, he said.
“We just happened to get some late rain that saved the soybean crop,” he said.
None of those facts have been enough to undo the damage of low yields and high costs during planting, Adams said.
The rain also has been good for next spring’s corn and soybeans because it is rejuvenating soil and increasing subsoil moisture levels, Adams said
Subsoil moisture is the resource crops use during the hottest, driest part of the year, Adams said.
Without the rains, “plants would have been stressed out from the get-go,” he said.
Much needed heavy rain during the past week also has helped livestock farmers by creating enough runoff to help fill ponds from which livestock drink, he said.
Amber Coulter can be reached at (270) 505-1746 or firstname.lastname@example.org.