Colorado crops remain behind schedule |

Colorado crops remain behind schedule

Story and Photos Robyn Scherer, M.Agr.
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Sweet peaches growing on tree
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Erratic weather and harsh conditions have put this year’s crops behind schedule, and farmers across the state are hoping for better conditions to finish out the season.

According to the USDA NASS Crop Progress report on Aug. 19, “Forty-five percent of the state’s corn crop was in the dough stage, up significantly from 19 percent previously. Five percent of the crop had reached the denting stage, behind 17 percent last year and the average of 10 percent.”

Nationally, almost all of the U.S. corn crop has silked, and about one-half of the crop has hit dough stage. Overall, the crop is behind schedule with just 11 percent of the corn crop at the dent stage. The five-year average is 30 percent.

Sorghum is also behind.

“Continuing behind average in development, 55 percent of the sorghum crop was headed, up from 37 percent a week earlier, with 24 percent turning color,” the report said.

Other crops are progressing. “Producers made modest progress harvesting onions, with 3 percent having been harvested by week’s end, up from 2 percent the week prior. Potatoes outside of the San Luis Valley were 24 percent harvested by week’s end, up 10 percentage points from the previous week.”

Pastures have shown some improvement, to the relief of livestock producers.

“Pasture and range conditions ratings showed a slight improved, ending with 50 percent rated very poor to poor compared with 52 percent last week. On average, 37 percent is rated very poor to poor.”

Alfalfa and hay cuttings are continuing.

“The second and third cuttings of alfalfa were 93 percent and 21 percent complete, respectively. Both cuttings were behind last year’s figures but generally on par with average progress,” the crop progress report stated.

Weather has been better the last week. According to the report, “Cooler temperatures and increased precipitation prevailed in vast portions of eastern Colorado while the west generally remained warm with scattered precipitation. Cooler temperatures were beneficial in some cases for crop, pasture and range conditions, particularly in areas impacted by drought.”

Some producers were making preparations for seeding of winter wheat in areas where conditions allowed.”

As wheat harvest has already wrapped up, Great Plains wheat farmers are now concerned about the availability of certified wheat seed, due to the crop failure in southeastern Colorado and western Kansas.

The Colorado Wheat Research Foundation and certified seed growers in Colorado are preparing to move certified wheat seed from areas that may have excess to areas that may have an apparent certified wheat seed deficit.

“There should be enough seed, but you need to make arrangements with certified seed dealers now,” says Darrell Hanavan, CWRF executive director, “I believe there will be plenty of good quality certified seed for those who make their arrangements without waiting until the last minute.”

Farmers should remember that brown-bagging seed (buying or selling wheat seed that is protected by the Plant Variety Protection Act to be used as seed from someone that is not a licensed certified seed grower) is illegal and carries substantial penalties. The overwhelming majority of all new wheat seed varieties are federally protected and can only be sold as a class of certified seed. Farmers may save their own wheat seed from previous years to re-plant on their own farms, unless the variety is protected under a technology agreement or other contract.

Roughly 43 percent of Colorado winter wheat is grown from certified seed. The rest is grown from seeds that farmers save.

Summer wheat and barley is reaching maturity now, and harvesting has begun.

“Last week, virtually all standing barley in Colorado had reached maturity while 25 percent has been harvested, behind last year and the average. Likewise, virtually all spring wheat was mature by week’s end. Thirty-three percent of the spring wheat harvest has also been completed, slightly ahead of last year and the average.”

Drought has greatly affected the peach crop this year as well. Peaches have experiences their worst weather in twenty years this year, and the crop is slim.

On average, most growers are seeing only 20-40 percent of their normal crop. Two hard back-to-back freezes in April killed off most of the buds in an area where 85 percent of the states peaches are grown.

The drought monitor, which came out each Thursday, showed Colorado remaining about the same.

“The West: Conditions continue to degrade in the northern sections of the West. Idaho, western Montana, and northern Utah experienced an expansion of Severe Drought (D2) and western Montana saw an expansion of Moderate Drought (D1). Some of this area has experienced low precipitation for over a year with wildfire activity increasing as of late.”

Conversely, the report stated, conditions continue to improve slightly in eastern New Mexico, which experienced a decrease of Exceptional (D4), Extreme (D3) and Severe Drought (D2); eastern Colorado, where Extreme (D3) and Severe Drought (D2) conditions eased; and eastern Wyoming, where Severe (D2), Moderate Drought (D1) and Abnormal Dryness (D0) abated.

Michael Brewer, with the National Climatic Data Center, NOAA, added that “wildfires remain a problem in parts of the West. The National Interagency Fire Center reported 51 active, large wildfires on Aug. 20, up from last week. Large fires continue to 10 western states including Idaho, where the Elk Fire has consumed over 130,000 acres of vegetation, an increase of over 30,000 acres this week. According to numerous sources, the cost of battling wildfires in 2013 has now exceeded $1 billion.” ❖