Producers investing more hard work in crops
Three-digit temperatures call for increased water management skills, and producers as well as irrigation district employees are watching closely this summer as there appears to be no immediate relief from the drain on water stored in the North Platte River reservoir system. So far, water losses are less than expected, and the July silt run should improve the odds even more.
By SANDRA HANSEN
Usually, temperatures in the upper 90s and 100s mean high evaporation losses on the area’s irrigation canals. That isn’t the case this year, and water managers are not sure why. But they aren’t complaining.
“Our losses have been pretty low for the last few days,” said Dennis Strauch, general manager of the Pathfinder Irrigation District. “We’re surprised, in fact, and not sure what is going on.”
Strauch said losses have been about only 1 percent recently, and other districts report the same conditions.
Whatever the reasons, Strauch said he hopes they continue because irrigators along the North Platte River reservoir system are pulling on storage water a lot sooner than expected.
There is hope on the horizon, though. The annual silt run is expected to begin July 11. This process flushes water and built-up silt out of Guernsey Reservoir, and downstream into waiting fields. The silt helps seal the canals and rows in the fields, increasing efficiencies. This year, the silt will be especially welcome because of the dry soil conditions that make it difficult to get water to all the crop.
As it stands now, Strauch said his district is not maxed out on deliveries, in spite of the weather. Other districts are in good shape as well, in spite of, or because of, the variety of planting dates.
Early warm weather encouraged early planting in some cases, and wind and hail caused some replanting. Consequently, producers expect a long harvest of almost all crops. The heat and amount of water on each field, will also effect maturity and water use.
“The crops are all over the board,” according to Strauch. “It’s going to be interesting to see how it turns out.”
Jim Schild, Extension educator at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Panhandle Research and Extension Center at Scottsbluff agrees with Straugh.
“There is a wide, wild range in maturity,” Schild said Thursday afternoon. “Where they had water, they’re going like crazy. Where they didn’t, it’s as rough as can be.”
Schild said some corn is already two feet high, while other fields are six inches.
“Nothing’s normal,” he said. “Lately, each year has had its own challenges, and farmers have learned to manage their water better.
“I think for the most part, we’ll have a decent crop this year, but it will be because growers have put a lot of hard work into it.”
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