Farmers hope for more rain

By Argen Duncan: PNT senior writer

Tuesday’s rain helped area farms and ranches, but didn’t solve the problem of the year’s dryness.

Rain fell throughout Curry and Roosevelt counties Tuesday night.

“This will buy some breathing room for the people that got some rain,” said Roosevelt County Extension Agent Patrick Kircher.

However, he said the rain isn’t a cureall for agriculture struggles “by any stretch.” The placement and amount of the moisture also affects how much it helps.

If more moisture doesn’t come, farmers expect low crop yields and ranchers may have to reduce their herd sizes because of too little grass for the cattle to eat.

Before Tuesday’s storm, Kircher said the two counties hadn’t had a good rain since October.

“For the most part, everything out there’s in pretty tough shape,” he said.

Small showers don’t help much in situations such as in the western and southwestern parts of Roosevelt County, which have received an inch of rain or less all year, Kircher said.

Gordon Morris, a Curry County resident who runs cattle west of Fort Sumner, said ranchers needed rain. They can supplement the herds’ feed for a time, but will eventually have to sell some of the cattle.

“We’ll just last however long we have to,” Morris said.

Morris was already providing supplemental feed to his cattle in about the same amounts as normal, he said. However, without sufficient rain, he would have to keep feeding them longer than usual, an added expense.

The range was drier than normal to start with this year because the lack of winter precipitation meant low levels of subsoil moisture, Morris said.

Brent Corbin, who farms west of Portales, said because irrigation can’t keep up with plant needs all the way through the summer, farmers will see low yields if it doesn’t rain enough.

“But we’ve still got some time,” he said.

Crops probably won’t fall behind with irrigation until July 1 because the plants are small and need less water, and temperatures are lower than normal, Corbin said.

A downpour came to his house Tuesday, but stopped quickly. The previous moisture hadn’t been enough to help, Corbin said.

Curry County Extension Agent Stan Jones said relying on irrigation is “almost more than you can bear” because of water requirements and expenses. If there isn’t enough moisture, Kircher said, farmers may let sacrifice some crops to ensure the success of others.

Kircher said several inches of rain needs to come within two weeks, at the end of which time temperatures are expected to rise.

As for specific crops, Kircher said Tuesday’s rain came too late for most of the wheat. Only if some fields had less mature wheat than most would the moisture help that crop.

“Most of the dryland wheat won’t be harvested,” Corbin said.

Farmers will harvest some irrigated wheat, he said, but yields will be low.

However, Kircher said dryland farmers who received rain would be able to plant milo.

With alfalfa, Corbin said the volume from the first cutting was near normal, but the nutritional value was low. Peanut and corn crops, both of which are irrigated, will produce something, but not a great yield, Kircher said.

Jones said city dwellers need rain for their yards as well. Many are simply trying to maintain their plants rather than giving them enough water to thrive.


Breakout:

Tuesday’s rainfall, as of press time
Location Amount
Clovis Muncipal Airport, east of town 0.06 inches
Cannon Air Force Base 0.34 inches
Site southwest of Portales 1.52 inches
Site 2 miles west of Portales 1 inch, estimated by witness
Previous rainfall
2009 before Tuesday Average for January through May
Clovis 1.16 inches 4.5 inches
Portales 1.23 inches 3.6 inches

Note: According to Brian Guyer of the National Weather Service in Albuquerque, the Clovis area average rainfall through May appears larger probably because records go back further for that area than for the Portales region.

Source: Brian Guyer, National Weather Service, Albuquerque