Monday, July 30, 2007

How Weather Affects Crops

Before we moved to Kansas, I knew very little about farm life. I knew even less about planting and harvesting. It's amazing how much you learn about different parts of the country simply by relocating and then paying attention to what is around you. We don't life on a farm, but we live in a farming community so how successful the farms are greatly influences the economics of our town.
When we first arrived in Kansas in January 2006, we were in the middle of a drought. That winter was very moderate and I think we may have gotten one round of snow. We also had very little rain, and I kept wondering how the wheat crops would be affected by the dryness. The talk around town was all about how much yield each farmer would get, and would it EVER rain? Then the "moderate" fall and winter turned into a scorcher of a summer, and I think there were over ten days of temperatures close to 110. If memory serves me correctly, this was during or after harvest, so the crop was not affected by this (although, I'm sure the farmers were!)
Then came the rain. And the snow. I can't tell you how many times it snowed in late 2006 and early 2007 because I lost count. And some of the snow came on top of other snow or ice that never melted. Praises to God for all the precipitation could be heard in all the churches! Imagine how well the wheat would do this harvest!
In the spring, storm after storm flooded basements, flooded towns, and even flattened completely Greensburg, KS. Being naive, I imagined what a great harvest we would have in June! But the rain didn't stop. And harvest time came, and the wheat could not be harvested. Most farmers began harvest as soon as the wheat was dry enough. Then more rain would come, putting harvest off again. What I never knew is that there is a small window of time when the wheat is ready, and if it can't be harvested because it is too wet, the window might be missed.
A few days ago, I had to drive an hour away into Wichita. The effects of the rain were very clear, as across the landscape I could see acres and acres of burning fields. Crops that could not be harvested had to be burned as much of it had grown mold from the wetness. The rains, which were such a blessing to the growth of the crops, had become a curse to the harvest. The economic impact is even worse than the year of the drought.
Farmers have insurance to cover these losses, but it certainly doesn't cover the full amount that they would have received with a good harvest. This means that the next year will be tight, and there won't be much excess for many families in Kansas. When I lived in the Georgia suburbs, I did not know any of this. Sometimes ignorance is bliss! It has been a great educational experience for all of us, not only learning about the farming end of things, but also how the weather can affect the economics of a region. It makes me wonder what else we are missing, and do we need to move to another part of the country to learn about it? I hope not!

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Tom Woods