Times are not good in much of central and western Kansas.
In spite of the recent round of thunderstorms, some violent with hail and high winds, Kansas is very, very short on moisture, and drought is growing both wider and deeper.
The hard red winter wheat crop is up and growing. But 85 to 90-degree days in March and April have not been kind to the health of the crop and the good to excellent ratings are now in low double-digit numbers.
The crop has been hit by winter kill -- temperatures plunging from the mid-70s to the low single digits in 24-hours on several occasions during January and February and more recently a hard freeze after weeks of warm temperatures and growth on April 4.
Then there is drought.
The April 9 U.S. Drought Monitor shows worsening drought across much of central and western Kansas with much of Cowley, Sumner, Barber and Comanche counties slipping into "extreme drought" territory while a huge swath remains in "severe drought."
Now, in April, has come high winds and blowing that further challenges the crop. Farmer after farmer has been forced to head into fields and chisel the ground in hopes of throwing up clods big enough to stop the blowing of the topsoil.
Most of the residue is missing and stubble from last year is blowing. In several spots on K-96 between Great Bend and Wichita, blowing dirt cut visibility enough that drivers had to slow down and turn on headlights.
As of the last day of March, growers in Oklahoma were saying that without immediate moisture, the crop was headed toward failure. Rain did not come. The picture isn't much different across Kansas. Wheat is one of the most drought tolerant crops out there, but there is a constant reminder -- no beneficial crops grow without ANY rain.
In Kansas, growers have seen occasional very light showers move through offering some hope for rain. The problem is, those light rains followed by 85 to 90-degree temperatures and winds of 15 to 20 mph mean any moisture gained was quickly lost.
The last couple of years have brought May relief and it may happen again and help some of the wheat in some areas. Unfortunately, in much of the state, it is already too late. This looks to be another year with big losses for wheat growers -- long before the harvest season even begins.