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Western Kansas drought scars run deep

Even if you had no idea western Kansas was in the midst of a long-term drought, the scars are hard to miss.  Corrals and roads are drifted with tumbleweeds.  Irrigation ditches are bone dry.  Fence rows are filled with drifted sand, and grass in the pastures has disappeared according to a recent article from Kansas Agland.  

Stevens County Rancher Dave Bozone says the only thing there is plenty of is tumbleweeds. 

"It is the worst year I've seen for tumbleweeds in this country," he says. "My corrals at the house have gotten 4 to 6 feet high with them - so bad the cattle couldn't get in the corral.”

"We've lost our stand of grass, so the weeds are growing in its place," he said of the thistle that took off after late summer rains.

Joshua Morris is the Kansas State University Research and Extension agricultural agent for the county. 

"We have had days like you see in pictures of the Great Depression," he said. "For us, keep in mind, we are running into our fourth year of it. Following years could be tougher if we don't get a rain."

Rain could solve a lot of problems, said Morris. While it may be too late for a bumper crop, decent rains could perk up the wheat and quench stressed pastures. At present, however, the wheat is in rough shape and continues to decline as days pass without moisture.

Ruth Schwerdfeger, a longtime Hamilton County farm woman who has lived in the far western Kansas County since the 1950s agrees. 

"We just got to have moisture," she said. "We can't take another year of no moisture."

She added, "We need rains that cover a large area - soakings rains that last a while and soak up the ground. That’s what we need."