Farmer deals with drought

Staff writer

Terrance Vinduska of Marion wakes up each morning, eager to tend to his crops — even in a drought.

“I couldn’t be in this business if I wasn’t optimistic by nature,” he said. “I won’t pull a cover over my head and say that there is nothing I can do about the hot and dry weather. There’s plenty I can do to keep my plants alive.”

Vinduska is just one farmer who is trying to figure out how to deal with the low water levels in Marion County. While many are still trying to figure out how to make ends meet, Vinduska said he already has a plan — one that has been in progress ever since the drought system first swept across Kansas three years ago.

At the start of every season, Vinduska said he does three things. He chooses the most drought-resistant crops, prays for good weather, and plans to study the condition of his current crop.

And this year is no different.

Vinduska said he planted more winter wheat this year than in years past, hoping it would be a better financial investment. However, as he gauges the current condition of his crops, he is slowly discovering that his crop didn’t germinate well because of the dry conditions.

“If you don’t have a good start, you don’t have anything,” Vinduska said.

Currently, 31 percent of the state’s winter wheat crop is in poor or very poor condition, according to Kansas Agricultural Statistics. Weather in coming months will tell whether that number grows.

Until then it is a waiting game, but Vinduska said he can’t get himself worked up about it.

“The weather is unpredictable,” he said. “You never know what is going to happen. A lot depends on the amount of actual rain and wind the fields get.”

The farmer is still confident in his decision to plant a large amount of winter wheat this season, knowing that he selected the most drought-resistant seed available.

Vinduska also plans to plant genetically altered corn, grain sorghum and soybeans that can withstand an abnormally dry season.

Afterward, he will watch the condition of his crops, using the “2-50” approach (two windows scrolled down at 50 mph) to gauge the condition of his crops. Later on in the season, he said he will walk through his fields to see how his crops are faring. If the crops are turning a bluish-greenish color or starting to curl, he knows that need more water in order to survive.

With some crops, like corn and soybeans, farmers are able to estimate their yield, but Vinduska said that is difficult to do with a primarily wheat crop.

While farmers across the wheat belt are staring at the forecast with fear, Vinduska is confident that, even if he has a bad season, he will be covered by crop insurance.

“There’s a reason we have it,” he said. “It’s a safety net for us.”

Last Friday, reports indicated that crop insurance firms are going to lose money this year because of the severe drought. Experts estimate farmers will receive between $20 and $25 billion in compensation across the country.

The federal government knows that this is going to hit Kansas farmers hard, which is why Marion County — along with 103 other Kansas counties — was declared by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to be a drought disaster area. This is the second year in a row that Marion County has received this designation — and many local farmers are concerned about how it will affect their livelihood.

“It hits everyone hard when we don’t get enough water,” Vinduska said. “You’d be worried too if your income was cut in half. But, it’s always important to look on the bright side — it might be better next year.”

Vinduska said the dismal forecast forces him to “trust that everything will turn out all right.”

Vinduska is now planning for the spring planting season. While he said the forecast is not what he would choose, he is determined to select the perfect seed, fertilizer, etc. for the weather condition — that way, he said, he’ll be doing everything he can to get a good harvest.

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