Weekend rain does little to alleviate drought
By ANGIE HAFLICH
Despite recent precipitation and cooler temperatures, southwest Kansas remains in a drought. And if it persists, the upcoming corn harvest could once again suffer.
"It took two years to get into the state we're in, so we're not going to get out of it in one month," said Mary Knapp, state climatologist.
On the bright side, Knapp said temperatures have been much closer to normal than last year, which is beneficial to crops and doesn't require farmers to use as much irrigation.
"They couldn't keep up last year because of the low humidity, high temperatures and the strong winds," Knapp said.
John Holman, cropping systems agronomist with Kansas State University Southwest Research Extension Center in Garden City, said despite the recent uptick in precipitation, dryland corn has essentially been written off.
"In western Kansas, I'm not expecting much from dry land. The irrigated might make do, but it's still getting dry," Holman said. "The cooler temperatures help a lot with the demand on the crop compared to last year, so that's better, but we're still in a rough situation."
He said crops like sorghum have benefited from the recent moisture, but that additional precipitation is badly needed for establishing the fall wheat crop.
"I hope it continues. We're still at 50 percent of normal rainfall, so we're not out of a drought yet," Holman said.
According to rainfall totals collected at the Southwest Research-Extension Center's experiment station in Garden City, 2.41 inches of rain has been recorded since the beginning of July, only .39 inches below the historical average of 2.80 inches for July.
Year-to-date, 8.05 inches of precipitation has been recorded at the experiment station, and that location's average yearly precipitation is 12.98 inches.
Further south and east at the Garden City Regional Airport, precipitation totals for the year are 4.75 inches, 8.6 inches below the norm.
Knapp said the difference between the locations has to do with the winter months. Knapp said that in total, the experiment station received 1.67 more inches of moisture from snowfalls between January and April. She said the airport's gauge also under-reports winter precipitation.
Year-to-date precipitation totals in other parts of southwest Kansas are as follows: 5.58 inches in Hugoton, a 6.32-inch departure from normal; and 8.55 inches in Dodge City, a 5.09-inch departure from normal. In Scott County, depending on the area, the year-to-date totals range from 8.33 to 11.79 inches, with a normal year-to-date total of 13.03 inches.
Knapp said that area has received quite a bit of precipitation in July alone.
"Ten miles southeast of Scott City, they have a total of 4.80 inches; 9.6 miles south of Scott City, they have a total of 3.99 inches; and 10 miles east-northeast, they have a total of 4.23 inches," she said of July rain totals.
Cooler temperatures, compared to the scorching ones in July 2012, have helped some.
Knapp said the average daily temperature in July in the southwest region — consisting of Hamilton, Kearny, Finney, Hodgeman, Ford, Clark, Meade, Gary, Haskell, Stevens, Grant, Stanton and Morton counties — has been 79 degrees. The daily average is determined by averaging the daily highs and lows.
According to the National Weather Service, Garden City's average temperature for July 2012 was 82.5 degrees. July 2012's average daily temperature for the southwest division was not available.
Knapp said that unlike the last couple of years, there hasn't been a long stretch of days where the high temperatures have exceeded 100 degrees.
"Having a string of 100-degree days is what has been abnormal the last couple of years," she said.
Even with the recent rains and cooler temperatures, Holman remains cautious.
"I would continue to be very conservative in my cropping management systems," he said would be his advice for area farmers. "I'd plant sorghum over corn in this drought, and I'd look to be utilizing sorghum to make sure I had a crop — just be real conservative," Holman said.
According to the National Weather Service's website, forecast.weather.gov, the forecast for Garden City includes several more chances for rain in the coming week. There is a 20 percent chance for showers or thunderstorms before 8 a.m. today; a 30 percent chance for showers or thunderstorms on Wednesday; a 40 percent chance for showers and thunderstorms on Wednesday night; and a 40 percent chance Wednesday night. The chance for rain continues Thursday through Monday.