Local experts: Wet winter will pay off

By Chris Schmaedeke: Freedom New Mexico

Area farmers may not be seeing the benefits of a wet winter now, but they will in a few weeks, agriculture experts say.

“The winter has been very helpful,” said Patrick Kircher, the Roosevelt County Extension Office agricultural agent.

“The precipitation has been more than it has been in several years.”

The moisture in the soil will help Roosevelt County with its chile crop, Curry County with its corn and cotton crops and Quay County with its wheat and hay, officials said.

“This has been a very good winter,” Portales farmer Rick Ledbetter said. “The deep soil moisture is very important.”

Deep soil moisture in winter gives plants a chance to grow without rain in spring, Kircher said.

“In past years it has been so dry that the farmers really had to dig deep to see any moisture,” Kircher said. “This year it should not be like that.

Some areas of eastern New Mexico received more than a foot of snow between Jan. 28 and Feb. 4.

In San Jon, 17 inches of snow has been recorded since January. Portales and Clovis have recorded more than 9 inches of snow each the past two months, according to the National Weather Service.

Farmers say the moisture is much needed after a dry 2009. Last year, farmers in Curry, Roosevelt and Quay counties reported spotty harvests after many areas received less than half-an-inch of moisture in January and February.

“This moisture will really pay off in the spring,” said Stan Jones, the Curry County Extension Office agricultural agent. “Right now the wheat barely grows, but once it breaks dormancy the wet weather will help.”

Tucumcari farmer Jack Smith said he doesn’t know the extent of soil moisture on his fields because he hasn’t started planting yet. But a gage on his property said he has almost 2 inches of moisture in the ground; anything more than half an inch is a good start for spring crops, he said.

“All this snow has done a lot of good,” Smith said. “This moisture is better than last year when we had zero.”