Drought Stricken Kansas Farmer Eyes Reptiles for Rain Forecast

Adam Baldwin, a farmer in McPherson County, KS, received precipitation ranging from half of an inch to an inch, which “bought the corn some time,” he says. However, he adds, “We still have a very shallow moisture profile.”

USDA’s May 7 Crop Progress report shows there’s no surplus subsoil moisture in Kansas. Subsoil moisture supplies are predominantly rated very short at 52% and 29% short, with just 19% rated adequate. Just 1% of the state reports surplus topsoil moisture. USDA rated topsoil moisture supplies 39% very short, 34% short and only 26% adequate on Monday.

The drought is forcing Baldwin to abandon some of his typical spring plans. While he’s planted some irrigated soybeans on his operation, he’s delayed planting the rest. Typically, Baldwin says they irrigate their crops out of a surface water pond on the property, but “That pond is totally dry, so we switched from corn and beans to milo on that farm.”

Baldwin says that all the corn he plans to plant this year is in the ground and starting to emerge. Across the state, the recent Crop Progress report shows that 47% of corn has been planted, just ahead of last year’s 44% at this time, and near the average of 48%. Emerged corn in Kansas was at 20%, equal to the average, and just ahead of last year’s 16%.

Baldwin returned to his family’s farm in 2002, and says that having corn and soybeans “burn up from drought is common, but having a wheat crop failure is not.” Baldwin says. Other than in 2007, when there was a wheat freeze that impacted their winter wheat, they’ve “always had some kind of crop, but this year is looking to be a disaster on probably 75% of our area’s acres.”

When it comes to predicting rain, Baldwin has developed a theory, with the help of some local turtles and snakes. The theory is “a lot like how cattle get restless before a storm,” he says. Before a storm rolls through, Baldwin notes that he’s seen the movement of turtles and snakes increase. While Baldwin notes he isn’t sure if it makes a difference whether the turtles and snakes move uphill or downhill, he says it does seem like, whenever they move to higher ground, then there’s a higher chance of rain, whereas them moving downhill towards water “means forecasted rains probably won’t occur.”

The drought-stricken farmer even started a Facebook group, Snakes on the Road, where people report snake and turtle sightings. “Typically spikes in sightings have resulted in more severe and larger storm systems,” Baldwin notes.

Baldwin says there were two reports where turtles were going downhill, and it was supposed to storm, but didn’t. “Turtles beat the forecast once again,” Baldwin claims.

Source: Agriculture.com