Kansas Farmer Logo

As spring rolls in, Kansas State University researchers provide updates on various crops grown in the state.

Jennifer M. Latzke, Editor

April 15, 2022

4 Min Read
Cotton field
CROP RESEARCH: Kansas State University Research and Extension is partnering with Oklahoma State University on a four-year research project looking into the economic viability of growing cotton farther north in the Central Plains, where water scarcity has some farmers considering alternative crops. Courtesy of K-State Research and Extension

The weather is turning warmer, and Kansas farmers are preparing to head to the fields. Kansas State University’s Extension staff are working on projects to make sure that they have the information they need now — and in the future — to remain profitable and productive.

Cotton research

K-State and Oklahoma State University have launched a four-year partnership to “identify the long-term environmental and economic viability of cotton production in areas where water scarcity requires the adoption of less water-intensive cropping systems,” according to K-State Research and Extension News.

Specialists from both universities will focus their research experiments on optimizing cotton irrigation and production, and evaluate how cotton production affects soil health in the Central Plains region. The key part of this research is to look at how cotton production might show a better return for applied irrigation water from the Ogallala Aquifer, which is in troubling decline. Portions of this research will be conducted at the Southwest Research Extension Center in Garden City, Kan.

The project is funded by a $750,000 national grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Yellowing wheat

Kansas wheat farmers are already scouting fields coming out of dormancy and may be starting to see yellowing wheat. Dorivar Ruiz Diaz, a K-State agronomist, reminds growers not to assume all yellowing wheat is due to nitrogen deficiency.

“One of the factors that might be contributing to yellow wheat this time of year is sulfur deficiency,” Ruiz Diaz says in a video update. The two deficiencies exhibit similar symptoms and can be easily confused.

He reminds crop scouts to consider:

  • Location of yellowing. Nitrogen deficiency is typically chlorosis in the older, lower leaves of wheat plants. Sulfur deficiency is signaled by chlorosis in the newer, upper leaves this time of year, however.

  • Application timing. Farmers can apply sulfur now to recoup their wheat’s yield potential, but it has to be in a form that’s easily available for uptake. Options include liquid fertilizers that contain thiosulfate, or dry fertilizers containing ammonium sulfate. You will need moisture to move it into the root zone for uptake as well.

Corn seeding rates

There are many factors that go into a farmer’s corn seeding rate decision, explains Ignacio Ciampitti, K-State Research and Extension agronomist. In Kansas, seeding rates run the gamut from as few as 15,000 seeds per acre in western Kansas, to as high as 28,000 to even 30,000 seeds per acre to the eastern side of the state.

Ciampitti reminds growers that their goal is to ensure as many of the seeds they plant in the ground wind up growing and producing ears of corn. On average, 90% to 95% of planted seeds — which were planted in ideal temperature and moisture conditions — will grow into plants. But if the conditions aren’t ideal, the plant population you attain from your seeding rate could be as much as 20% to 25% below your target.

“The more seeds you put in the ground, the more expensive it is if they don’t convert to plants,” Ciampitti says. “And that’s money that slips away.”

It's tempting to plant at the maximum rate for your region, but that may not be the best decision, Ciampitti explains — especially when you consider your available soil moisture and the potential for moisture this growing season. If water is going to be your limiting factor this year, you may consider reducing your seeding rate by 2,000 or 3,000 seeds per acre, he says. Likewise, if you think you’ll have plenty of available water, the maxim has been to bump up seeding rates by 2,000 or 3,000 seeds per acre, but that only increases your yields by 3 to 4 bushels per acre. Is that added yield and added risk worth the cost of the seed?

“Adding more plants creates more stress, and you aren’t helping the crop,” Ciampitti says. The goal this year should be for farmers to not start their corn crops in a stressful situation and make the field more dependent on rain, he says. It’s better to be more conservative on seeding rates to give the corn crop an opportunity to succeed if the rains don’t come this year, he adds.

Kansas State Research and Extension contributed to this article.

About the Author(s)

Jennifer M. Latzke

Editor, Kansas Farmer

Through all her travels, Jennifer M. Latzke knows that there is no place like Kansas.

Jennifer grew up on her family’s multigenerational registered Angus seedstock ranch and diversified farm just north of Woodbine, Kan., about 30 minutes south of Junction City on the edge of the Kansas Flint Hills. Rock Springs Ranch State 4-H Center was in her family’s backyard.

While at Kansas State University, Jennifer was a member of the Sigma Kappa Sorority and a national officer for the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow. She graduated in May 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications and a minor in animal science. In August 2000 Jennifer started her 20-year agricultural writing career in Dodge City, Kan., on the far southwest corner of the state.

She’s traveled across the U.S. writing on wheat, sorghum, corn, cotton, dairy and beef stories as well as breaking news and policy at the local, state and national levels. Latzke has traveled across Mexico and South America with the U.S. Wheat Associates and toured Vietnam as a member of KARL Class X. She’s traveled to Argentina as one of 10 IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Agricultural Journalism. And she was part of a delegation of AAEA: The Ag Communicators Network members invited to Cuba.

Jennifer’s an award-winning writer, columnist, and podcaster, recognized by the Kansas Professional Communicators, Kansas Press Association, the National Federation of Presswomen, Livestock Publications Council, and AAEA. In 2019, Jennifer reached the pinnacle of achievements, earning the title of “Writer of Merit” from AAEA.

Trips and accolades are lovely, but Jennifer says she is happiest on the road talking to farmers and ranchers and gathering stories and photos to share with readers.

“It’s an honor and a great responsibility to be able to tell someone’s story and bring them recognition for their work on the land,” Jennifer says. “But my role is also evolving to help our more urban neighbors understand the issues our Kansas farmers face in bringing the food and fiber to their store shelves.”

She spends her time gardening, crafting, watching K-State football, and cheering on her nephews and niece in their 4-H projects. She can be found on Twitter at @Latzke.

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like