Thunder But No Rain Symptom of Worsening  Drought

Thunder But No Rain Symptom of Worsening Drought

Syngenta wheat field day shows stunted even best agronomic practices result in poor stands, short plants when rains just stay away.

The thunder boomed, the lightning flashed and a few sprinkles of rain fell on southern Kansas and northern Oklahoma on Wednesday night.

It rained enough to settle the dust and raise spirits for Syngenta's field day at the "Grow More Wheat" demonstration plots northeast of Enid, Ok. on Thursday morning.

But by noon, the winds had come up, the dust was blowing steadily and the tables inside the tent sent up for presentations on certified seed and lunch had to be wiped down before the barbecue could be served.

"Well, that didn't take long," said Syngenta Agripro wheat sales lead Matt Keating.

QUICK DUST: Here's the look of tables in the lunch tent at the May 8 Syngenta field day. After an overnight shower of rain, all it took was a few minutes of warming temperatures and wind and here comes the dust.

With a forecast for thunderstorms, including possibly heavy rain and hail, seed growers, sales staff, crop protection specialists and farmers weren't sure what to expect of Thursday morning's event.

"I had kind of hoped we'd be doing this program in the mud," Keating said. "No such luck."

While the overnight showers did settle the dust for a few hours, it didn't take long for sunshine and wind to make the moisture disappear.

The wheat in the demonstration plots at Enid is headed out and some of it has pretty good-looking heads. But it about half of normal height and stands are much thinner than the intensely managed plots would be in a year with anything close to normal weather.

Normal weather, however, has not been the case for this wheat crop and fields in southern Kansas and northern Oklahoma show the stress of multiple late freezes – the last on April 15 – and extremely dry weather. Less than two inches of rain have been recorded at Wichita; the driest start of a year since 1936 in the Sunflower state.

SHORT WHEAT: One of the biggest indicators of this year's drought stress is the height of the wheat heading out. Amazing thing is the ability of this plant to put on grain in spite of the horrific conditions – these short little plants actually have full-sized heads.

Then came the stress of the last week – temperatures that hit 102 degrees on May 3 with 30 to 50 mph winds. Fields that already looked stressed turn just plain ugly.

As I write this, it is Thursday night and there are still thunderstorms in the forecast and I am still hoping. What I know for sure is that we need rain. We really need rain.

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