Drought in southwest Kansas wheat fields is worst since Dust Bowl
In southwest Kansas, the wheat fields look more brown than gold, The Kansas City Star reports.
The drought-stricken corner of the state is following one of its best-yielding years with one of its worst. The winter harvest is projected to produce 27 percent less wheat than last year.
Star reporter Annie Greenberg sums up the situation in an article published June 8:
“This time of year … the wheat fields should be green and lush and growing and they’re not,” said Aaron Harries, director of marketing for Kansas Wheat. “The fields are scattered with spots of green, most of the crop has withered up and died. It looks like a desert.”
Harries said the rainfall deficits in those areas are the most severe since the 1930s Dust Bowl days.
Scorching temperatures over the past week, combined with dry conditions, have caused this year’s Kansas crop to reach maturity about a week earlier than normal. That’s prompted the combines and harvest workers to hit the fields and fill grain elevators quickly.
Recently, droughts have also been an international problem. France, one of the major wheat producers in Europe, is suffering from its worst drought on record. Last August, Russia banned all grain exports after a devastating dry season destroyed crops, but is allowing the ban to expire July 1.
The increased demand for food worldwide has caused wheat prices to skyrocket. According to a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the cost for a bushel of wheat in mid-May was $8.19 — almost double the national average from May 2010.
Harries said the increase will help offset some farmers’ losses and was partially caused by fears of a decreased supply.
Although retail food prices are rising, the cost of wheat is seldom the main culprit. The wheat content in food items is a relatively small part of total manufacturing and marketing costs.
But every penny a bushel is significant in Kansas, the nation’s largest producer of hard red winter wheat. It’s the state’s top agricultural export, valued at more than $1.1 billion in 2009.
The article also discusses long-term weather trends and the value of crop insurance. Click here to read more.