Winter wheat farmers hope for snowy season after drought

LEAVENWORTH COUNTY, Kan. - Farmers with winter wheat in the ground are among those most anticipating the arrival of snow in the Kansas City area.

At Stephen Tuttle's fields in Leavenworth County, Kan., the plants filled in pretty well despite the drought. But he said there's a problem underneath the top soil.


"It's dry clear down to five feet deep," Tuttle said.


While wheat can survive with less moisture, Tuttle's fields are 16 inches behind, and it's getting to be too much.


"We're fair to okay right now. We've got a crucial four- to five-month time period here coming up, where if we don't get moisture, it'll go backwards," Tuttle said.


His fields usually record up to 30 inches of snow per winter, but last year, Tuttle's fields received only 3.5 inches.


That's why he hopes for more than a white Christmas. He wants a whiteout of a winter.


Kansas State University Extension officer Steve McNorton said in some ways, snow is better than rain.


"Snow melts. It's a slower, more absorbing type of moisture, so it's more beneficial that way. It doesn't run off the field," McNorton said.


In addition, McNorton said a blanket of snow protects plants from freezing to death. However, he added that plain old rain goes a lot further in getting the fields back to where they should be.


"It would take a tremendous amount of snow to recover, to get us back to even normal," McNorton said.


After disastrous corn and bean harvests, "normal" is exactly what Tuttle needs for his wheat harvest.


"In the long run, you really just need that moisture. If everything is just normal, it always works out," Tuttle said.

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