By MIKE CORN
If the planting of corn and grain sorghum is a rite of spring, then fall must be the rite of passage.
Many farmers will be happy to see an end to this year's troubled crops.
To be sure, fall is a busy time of year as farmers take to the fields to harvest a multitude of fall crops, bale feed for cattle or drill the 2014 wheat crop.
Lucas Meiar and his dog, Kleine, riding in the tractor cab, are looking forward to next year's wheat crop.
"I'm just finishing," he said of drilling wheat.
While the dust was blowing, Meiar was delighted with the bright, damp soil he was seeing just below the surface.
If only some of the rains had come sooner.
That's why some results have been promising. Others, not so much.
Bruce Mai was making quick work of a field of dryland corn, but that's because it wasn't producing much. He even decided to forego a corn head, knowing it would miss most of the ears of corn on the drought-stressed crop.
"That corn is like 6 inches off the ground," he said. "I don't think a normal combine would get it."
Harvest on one particular field was only making approximately 20 bushels per acre.
Of course, he wouldn't have been cutting anything had July rains not fallen and given the crop a boost.
Mai said he's in a dry zone on his Trego County farm south of WaKeeney.
"South of here, milo will make 80" bushels per acre, he said. "Here, it will make 25."
In true farmer fashion, he looked on the bright side.
"It could be worse though," Mai said.
That would have made it a total bust.
It's bad enough as it is.
He'll end up relying in large part on crop insurance, even though he'd rather have a full crop.
"It would be a different country without crop insurance," he said of farmers able to get by in times of drought.
Not everything in agriculture is bad, although there's something of a distinct dividing line between farmers with crops and those without.
That line slices through Ogallah. To the west, the crops are poor; to the east, they get better.
At least that's what Mark Armbrister is seeing.
Near Riga, he was cutting milo and happy with the results, although he wanted to get started as some plants were starting to fall over.
After quickly cutting enough for a sample, Armbrister stepped out of the combine cab, jumped in to the combine's bin and took a moisture reading. At 12.8 percent moisture, he was ready to roll.
"I'm hoping for 80," he said of how many bushels per acre the field might produce, "depending on how many heads the combine can pick up."
He's aware, however, fields to the west likely won't be as productive.
"West of Ogallah, it's the headless variety," he said of the poor condition of milo crops growing there.