Argen Duncan: Portales News-Tribune A pivot sprinkler waters Colin Chandler’s corn field Saturday morning on N.M. 236. Even though he hasn’t turned the sprinklers off since February, Chandler said, the irrigation can’t keep up with the drought. Half an inch of water evaporates from the soil a day, and the sprinkler takes six days to cover a field, applying half an inch of water.
The last week’s rain did little to help most area farmers and ranchers in the midst of the extreme drought.
Tuesday morning, the National Weather Service reported precipitation ranging from 0.14 inches in Portales and at the Clovis airport to 1.22 inches in Clovis.
“It’s as dry as I’ve ever seen it,” Broadview farmer and rancher Pat Woods said.
Roosevelt County farmer Colin Chandler said most of his fields didn’t get rain and those that did received a tenth of an inch.
“It was gone within the first four hours of sunlight,” he said.
Chandler said the soil and plants lose half an inch of water a day because of the heat and wind. Dryland crops are dead, waiting for rain to sprout or haven’t been planted, and irrigation can’t keep up with plants’ needs.
“We’re keeping (the irrigated crops) alive, but they’re not growing like they’re supposed to,” Chandler said. “They’re just kind of sitting there waiting on some help.”
The situation is the same all over Roosevelt County, he said.
Woods said the three-tenths or four-tenths of rain his land received wasn’t productive, either.
“There just wasn’t enough of it to hardly wet the ground,” he said.
Curry County farmer and rancher Frank Blackburn, also a county commissioner, said his property received eight-tenths of an inch or more, allowing him to plant hay grazer and dryland milo.
“For a few days, I won’t have to run my sprinklers, but it’ll be short-lived,” he said.
One farmer north of Blackburn’s land received more rain than he did, he said, but most Curry County farmers had less.
With no moisture accumulated in the soil, Blackburn said, the area needs its average 10 inches of precipitation from May through September for crops to catch up.
Woods said farms need at least 2 inches of rain and maybe 3 or 4 inches in the next two weeks to make the crops that remain alive grow.
Woods’ forage milo and Chandler’s cotton have already failed.
Chandler said farmers might be able to plant 90-day dryland corn if it rains this week or dryland hay grazer if rain comes by the third week of July.
Without rain, Blackburn said, irrigated crops will produce low yields and dryland crops will fail.
Farmers who bought crop insurance can collect payments on failed crops. However, Chandler said not all crops are insurable and the insurance doesn’t replace the entire crop.
Also, Blackburn is concerned about wind eroding his fields without vegetation to hold down the soil this winter.
Woods said the quality and quantity of hay available this winter would be low, making it difficult to feed cattle. He expects many will go to market.
Now, Woods is grazing his cattle on Conservation Reserve Program grass, which he said would last for another three months.
Woods would like to see CRP land open to baling the grass as hay as well as grazing so ranchers could provide the forage for their cattle over the winter. He estimated that three-fourths of it has no water or fences, making it impractical to put cattle on the land for only a few months.