More than a foot of rain fell on the Ted Guetterman farm in Johnson County during a three-day stretch from Oct. 5 to 7. At roughly the same time, nearly four inches of rain fell on the Roger Glenn family farm in Finney County, approximately 365 miles west.
The Guetterman family walked around in water standing atop their no-till fields and the Glenns were slip-sliding away on their no-till land. Combines chomping at the bit to harvest the bountiful corn, bean and milo crops sat dead still.
It would be two weeks before the machines would move and that depended on no additional moisture. Kansas grain farmers waited on pins and needles from the eastern border of Kansas to the Colorado border hoping for sunshine and dry weather.
Glenn, who’s farmed with his father-in-law for 32 years can’t remember a fall so wet. Fortunately, he’d harvested some of his corn crop and sowed his winter wheat crop. Only one bin full of milo came out of his fields before the deluge during the first week of October.
Rainfall on the family farm in Finney and Kearny counties sprawls 25 miles from one end to the other. Moisture ranged from 2.6-3.8 inches during this rain event.
“We try to keep a rain gauge on every quarter of land,” Glenn says. “This allows us to check actual rainfalls and remains the most accurate method of charting rainfall so we can determine what crop to plant on every field.”
An October rainfall of this magnitude results in excellent crops for the winter wheat and next year’s corn and milo planted in the spring of 2019. Water stands in some of the low spots throughout their land. Some grader ditches stood nearly full and while others were at least half full.
While checking his fields after the three-day rain, Glenn probed several of the family quarter sections and punched his six-foot probe within four inches of the end of the steel rod.
“Every once in a while, we’re blessed with a full profile of moisture in our fields during the spring, but not like this in the fall,” Glenn says. “We finished drilling our wheat two days before the rain came and the new crop has emerged and looks really good — thick, green and lush. This new crop will really pop once the sun comes out and we have some more fall-like days.”
The early October rains made sure Glenn could drill his winter wheat within an inch from the top of the soil and residue. He says this newly-planted crop has the potential to be one of their best stands in a long while.
While the milo crop itself is dry and ready to cut, the leaf canopy will shade the ground and push harvest several days into the future. Glenn can’t wait to begin milo harvest.
“Two years ago, we cut one of our best milo crops ever,” the southwestern Kansas farmer says. “This year our milo looks like the best we’ve ever grown. The heads are big and full and while we don’t like to predict what a crop will make, we’re hoping for better than 100 bushels to the acre and some may make 130 bushels.”
Once the fall harvest begins again, it will no doubt take more time. Fields are saturated with water and trucks and grain carts will be kept out of the fields to prevent compaction and tearing up the soil.
“Anytime we receive rain in October, we’re happy for it,” Glenn says. “It may be Thanksgiving before we finish, or even later if it keeps raining. We’ve been faced with harvest delays before and we’ll finish up when we’re finished.”
John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.