What a difference a month makes. In early September, Central Kansas was still fighting the summer heat. Crops were struggling, grass was drying and ponds were losing what little water they had left.
Now, not even half-way through October, farmers woke up Sunday morning to dead crops from a cold, hard freeze. Constantly changing weather and temperatures are one of the perks of living and farming in Kansas. It’s also one of the disadvantages.
Earlier this week, temperatures were in the 70s. We knew there was a chance for a freeze last night but we didn’t know if that chance would become reality. And if temperatures did dip, there is little to nothing farmers could have done to protect their crops. Sure enough, the temperatures plummeted.
The freeze that struck Saturday night affected plants, shrubs and crops still growing. In this area that meant grain sorghum – milo – and alfalfa. Farmers that were lucky enough to get their crops out of the field before last night escaped any impact from the freeze. But not all of the crops were ready to the harvest which meant farmers were forced to wait and watch the mercury drop.
Droughts, intense heat and early freezes are all hurdles of the agriculture industry. Kansas farmers favor freezes – but during the winter months when crops are harvested and fields are bare. Freezing temperatures help kill weeds and any volunteer crops that are still growing in the field. People with allergies look forward to the first hard freeze each year because it signals and end to the suffering. But an early freeze, like the one we experienced last night, does more harm than good.
The crops hit by the freeze will essentially die, in the process losing grain and productivity. That will dramatically impact yields. The irony comes in that the fields impacted by the drought sit adjacent to the crops and fields that had shriveled from the heat and drought. It’s all weather but the dramatic opposites are a perfect example of the substantial sways in weather commonly found in Kansas. And the many, many impacts and obstacles farmers face every day while trying to produce food, fuel and fiber for the world.