Grass & Grain

Grass & Grain 8-4-15

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By Julia Debes From fishermen in Peru to wheat farmers in Kansas, a shifting weather pattern is the single largest influence on any crop. The rains that fell across the state in May brought new life to the wheat crop that was recently har- vested and spotted delays during cutting. And, after years of drought conditions, farmers can reasonably ex- pect more of that moisture to continue, thanks to the offi- cial El Niño pattern declared in April, according to Mary Knapp, state climatologist with Kansas State Universi- ty. Observing El Niño By definition, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will declare an El Niño has start- ed when the sea surface tem- peratures in the Pacific Ocean are one half degree Celsius warmer than normal for five consecutive three- month periods. While one half of a degree seems small, Knapp explained to heat up the entire surface of the Pa- cific Ocean, which covers one third of Earth's surface, that requires a lot of heat. The result of this warm- ing was first documented in the 1880s by fishermen off the coast of Peru. The differ- ing temperatures brought different-sized fish, meaning warmer seas attracted small fish that could slip through nets intended for larger fish. As scientists learned more, these changing sea tempera- tures corresponded with barometric pressure anom- alies and shifting wind pat- terns. Only in the last 25 to 30 years, however, have re- searchers started associating this El Niño phenomenon with disruptions in global weather patterns, according to Knapp. This effort is now assisted by array buoys in the ocean that transmit data in real time. Bueno for Kansas Farmers, Not for Competitors As Knapp explained, an El Niño event generally means wetter-than-normal conditions for Kansas, in- cluding more moisture in summer months and milder- than-normal winters, espe- cially for the southern tier of counties. This El Niño was declared in April, later than typical according to Knapp, and Kansas did see substan- tial rains throughout May as the rising moisture from Gulf of Mexico mixed with cold fronts. Knapp said if the El Niño pattern persists, then most of Kansas will continue to re- ceive more moisture throughout the rest of sum- mer and into the fall. How- ever, states further north like South Dakota and North Dakota are likely to see drier than average conditions. While beneficial here in Kansas, Knapp explained that for competitors across the world, an El Niño can signal drier than normal con- ditions, especially for the Black Sea, China and Cana- da. Areas closer to the coast are impacted more by El Niño, Knapp said, making countries like Australia espe- cially susceptible to these dry conditions. But as Knapp explained, "No two El Niños behave in exactly the same manner." As a result, these observa- tions are trends, not guaran- tees. Long Lasting Potential Indications that Kansas will continue to receive more moisture than normal look positive at this point. Knapp pointed out that of the 16 dy- namical and nine statistical models researchers use to determine an El Niño, none predict a quick end to the El Niño. In fact, according to NOAA on July 18, forecast- ers report there is more than a 90 percent chance that the El Niño pattern will continue through the winter of 2015- 16 and about 80 percent chance into spring. Farmers recently harvest- ed better than expected wheat in many fields thanks to that May moisture, even if the rain also brought foliar diseases and hail events in many places. And, with El Niño predicted to continue for the months ahead, Kansas farmers may see even more rain drops for next year's crop. Either way, El Niño is a phenomenon to watch. Check out NOAA' s offi- cial El Niño portal at http://www.elnino.noaa.gov/ for more information and regular reports on El Niño conditions. By Donna Sullivan, Editor A project that has been nine years in the making came to fruition as the Jack- son County Fair was held in its brand new facility south of Holton this year. Wholly owned by the fair board, the purchase of the 50 acres the fairgrounds inhabits was made possible in part by the sale of the real estate that was previously home to the Jackson County Fair. Fundraisers too numerous to mention, as well as the gen- erosity of many donors, al- lowed the board to build two new buildings – one that was finished a couple of years ago and now contains the in- door project exhibits – and the other a 30,000- square- foot building that houses all the livestock exhibits as well as the show arena, fair office and a concession stand. They broke ground on the $650,000 livestock building this past January. By May 1, the shell of the building was standing, but there was no electricity and none of the inside work done. That's when the community, that had invested so much time, energy and money already, rallied again to see the proj- ect through to completion. "You talk about a com- munity coming together," said fair board vice president Jerry Nelson. "The last thirty days, it's been a huge sup- porter of what we're doing." 4-H'ers showed up in droves to set up and paint all the pens and countless other volunteers invested their own sweat equity in the proj- ect. The end result is a sight to behold as the building brings together friends and neighbors for the celebration of a year's worth of 4-H work by area youth. "This is really nice," said fair board president Aaron Allen. "There used to be people at the fair that I never saw because I was only in the beef building. So now I get to see a lot more people." But with the fair only lasting for a few days in the summer, the board hopes the community will find other ways to use the facility. "Our goal for this facility is for it to be used for more than just the fair," Allen said. "We need to have it busy as much as it can be year-round." Horse events, auctions – anything that needs a big in- door area – would be perfect for the building. "The roof and sidewalls are insulated, and all the garage doors will be insulat- ed," said Nelson. "So you could put some big heaters in here and do whatever you want to any time of year." While their eye is on the future with the new facility, the fair board has worked to be mindful of the rich her- itage the fair had in their old location. On one end of the show arena is the outside tri- angular end of the former show barn. The old wood is weathered, but the 4-H clover is still prominent. "The jury is still out on whether we are going to re- paint it," Nelson shared. Old panels have been repurposed to make signs while gates from the old hog barns have been painted green and used in landscaping. Looking ahead, the board has left options open for adding more buildings in the future, but is more focused on being good stewards of what they already have. "We want to be able to keep the doors open on what we have before we do anything dif- ferent," Allen pointed out. "The main thing we've had a challenge with is that we as the board want to op- erate within our means," Nelson agreed. "We would have liked to build a building that was maybe a little bit bigger, but this is what we could put up and take care of." The board is proud of the fact that both new buildings are completely paid for. Comparing the new facil- ity with the old, Nelson con- trasts the two eras in which they were built. "It's like driving a John Deere A trac- tor, or one of the new air- conditioned ones," he said. "That's the dramatic differ- ence, and that's what they would have been farming with when that (old facility) was started." He reflects on the wide range of programs 4-H pro- vides to all kids, whether urban or rural. "4-H is such a broad spectrum any more," he said. "I really think the community is starting to fig- ure out that this is a reality and it can really benefit from this. And who else is going to benefit but the kids?" A 30,000-square-foot building now houses all the livestock pens as well as the show arena for the Jackson Coun- ty Fair. Photos by Donna Sullivan Jackson County holds first fair on new grounds The first building erected on the new grounds a couple of years ago has been used for dog shows and other events and now houses the indoor exhibits for the fair. The weathered triangle from the end of the old live- stock building is a testament to the the rich history of 4- H in Jackson county. A donor board recognizes the contributions to the new fairgrounds from many in the community. El Niño signals wet weather potential ahead for Kansas farmers 8-4-15 Sect. 1.qxp:Layout 1 7/30/15 1:20 PM Page 1

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