Moisture coming at right time for parched crops

By Michael Harrell: PNT Staff Writer

The flash increase of rain in recent weeks has farmers in the region pleased, but it still isn’t enough to compensate for the drought plaguing the normally arid climate, according to agriculture officials.

“It has been an extremely difficult year,” said Jimmy Shearer, the manager of Sunland Peanuts Inc. “We’ve had hotter and windier years. But never a year as windy and as hot.”

All things considered, peanut crops are still turning out successful, according to Shearer. Production will be similar to last year, which Shearer said was one of the company’s best.

Roosevelt County has planted 12,600 acres of peanuts which should be harvested in October. They are worth $550 a ton, according to Shearer.
“The farmers have had to put an exceptional amount of water on,” Shearer said.

Normally sprinklers run on the crops two or three days a week. This summer farmers have to consistently keep water on the crops, which is costly but effective, Shearer said.

The beginning of summer proved disastrous for corn and alfalfa, according to Jim Chandler, a local farmer.

Due to the rain, alfalfa crops are doing well right now, though Chandler said he doesn’t expect it to last.

“Alfalfa uses so much water. We’ve had a lot of problems with it because it isn’t wet enough,” he said.

The high moisture lately has been most beneficial to corn growth, according Chandler.

“The corn has been growing a lot the last few weeks,” he said. Soon the corn will be entering the tassel stage of its growth, said Chandler.
Roosevelt County District Conservationist Joe Whitehead explained the moisture levels must go deep into the soil, which is why irrigation lines can often be seen watering empty fields.

“This winter was so dry the soil profile is just dry — you just never get caught up and you’ve still gotta keep watering,” Whitehead said.
While the recent rain may have given a boost to farmers, the bonus water is to be short-lived.

The rain may be ending this week and the future prognosis is not good, according to meteorologists. Drought conditions are likely to persist throughout the rest of the summer, according to Ron McQueen, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Lubbock.

Freedom Newspapers Sharna Johnson contributed to this report.