Western Kansas drought reaching historic levels

Agriculture

The National Weather Service said if there is no precipitation this weekend, it will be the driest winter out here since they began tracking in 1874.

Farmers are starting to see the effect on their crops.

“There’s no moisture there,” said Lane County farmer Vance Ehmke, inspecting his wheat, “and it’s a miracle that that plant is alive.”

He planted some crops right before heavy rains at the end of September. What he once thought was good timing turned out to cause more harm than good.

“We’ve got good top growth, good root development, but with no rain or no snow, the roots have just totally desiccated this ground.”

When it comes to wheat conditions, he’s not alone.

According to the USDA, only 13 percent of Kansas wheat is in good or excellent condition. The other 87 percent is rated fair or worse.

“Honest to god I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything as widespread and as bad as it is right now,” said Ehmke.

He says even an inch of rain would make a huge different.

“That rain would save this crop and be worth untold millions of dollars. There’s no question about it.”

Ehmke says wheat is resilient. With enough rain he thinks he can get as much as 30 bushels per acre, but he says if conditions stay the same he might not get anything from his crops.

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