Thursday, May 22, 2014

Kansas State University Research Farm - Colby, Kansas - Thursday, May 22, 2014

Wow what a day! We ventured to Kansas State University Research Farm in Colby, Kansas where we met up with Rob Aiken to learn more about dryland wheat production. Once you go past the 100th meridian rainfall dramatically decreases.  Eastern Kansas receives approximately 40 inches of rain each year while the western portion of Kansas only receives about 18.5 inches.  There is quite the moisture gradient across Kansas and water is definitely the limiting factor out here. 

Rob showed us research being done on possible rotation combinations and different wheat varieties.  We saw a cover crop study that illustrated why cover crops are not necessarily a good idea out here.  Water banking is very important for the production of field crops in areas that do not receive a lot of yearly rain.  Rob is thinking about and researching problems that he foresees in the future.  He told us, "I am prepping for 20 years from now." 

Larry Dible, Tom Morris and Andrew Brown examining a sweep implement used in summer fallow wheat to kill weeds with minimal disturbance of the soil.

A traditional sod house - a house constructed from strips of sod stacked on top of one another. 

Rob Aiken showing us the difference in various wheat varieties.
Panoramic of a dryland wheat field.

We then visited with Larry and Patty Dible on their 1500 acre dryland wheat farm.  Larry is retired from the research and extension station and now farms his family’s land full time.  He follows a corn, wheat, fallow rotation.  Land here is often left fallow for at least one out of three years to conserve enough water to produce a viable crop.  Production per acre is much lower here as compared to regions to the east due to the lack of water.  But crop production is higher than to the west where rainfall is lower. Larry showed us his equipment including new tractor, corn planter and summer fallow tillage equipment.

After visiting the Dible family Rob took us to the Prairie Museum of Art and History where his wife Ann Miner is the Education Director. It has the largest barn in Kansas and a large collection of agricultural historical items.  We also were able to see a replica sod house.  This was a very informative place to learn about how life on the prairie has changed over time.

-  Julie

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