Irrigation forecast good for ’20 growing season


MILLS – Based on runoff forecasts and inflow projections in early June, the 2020 irrigation season should be near average for producers along the North Platte River system in Wyoming and Nebraska.

That’s the word from Mahonri Williams, the Bureau of Reclamation point person on the North Platte system at the Wyoming Area Office in Mills. Despite slightly decreased inflows at Seminoe Reservoir – the furthest-upstream reservoir in the system, projections are for sufficient irrigation water for all.

“At the beginning of June, we were anticipating near average conditions on the North Platte,” Williams said. “We’ve got good carryover storage, so we’ve got a good water supply for this year. It’s looking like the water supply is in good shape.”

And that’s good news for producers, as portions of the extreme northern Panhandle of Nebraska and some areas in central southeast Wyoming are ranked at or near abnormally dry, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.

“It’s looking pretty dry for precipitation right now,” said Ayesha Wilkinson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Cheyenne, Wyo. “For right now, we expect to keep that dry pattern going for the next three months.

“That’s all the way up, pretty much all of Wyoming,” she said. “Nebraska, not so much. There are little more normal conditions for that area. But we are expecting a dryer season.”

For the week ending June 21, there were 5.6 days suitable for fieldwork across Nebraska, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Topsoil moisture supplies rated 8% very short, 30% short, 59% adequate, and 3% surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies rated 4% very short, 21% short, 72% adequate, and 3% surplus.

Corn condition rated 1% very poor, 4% poor, 21% fair, 56% good, and 18% excellent.

Winter wheat condition rated 3% very poor, 10% poor, 25% fair, 58% good, and 4% excellent. Winter wheat headed was 96%, ahead of 91% last year, but near 98% average.

Dry edible bean condition rated 23% fair, 67% good, and 10% excellent. Dry edible beans planted was 95%. Emerged was 82%. Pasture and range conditions rated 3% very poor, 6% poor, 20% fair, 66% good, and 5% excellent.

Wyoming saw 6.6 days suitable for field work. Topsoil moisture in the Cowboy state ranked 46% adequate and 54% short to very short. Subsoil moisture measured at 50% adequate and 50% short to very short.

Producers reported 95% of dry edible beans had been planted with 84% emergence. Winter wheat came through at 92% booted and 43% headed, while 52% reported completing their first alfalfa
cutting harvested.

Wyoming experienced varying temperatures this week, being much cooler than normal over much of the state, and warmer than normal only in some of the Southeast counties, according to the Mountain Regional Field Office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service, USDA. Precipitation across Wyoming for the week ending June 21 was mostly below normal, with spots here and there of rainfall in the north and the west. The parts of Wyoming rated as abnormally dry by the National Integrated Drought Information System remains as most of the state, except parts in the Northwest corner and areas in the South.

A reporter from Southeastern Wyoming stated that dry conditions have led ranchers to continue selling cattle early. Another reporter in Southeast Wyoming reported rangeland is continuing to dry out quickly, and the first cutting of hay is speeding up. A third reporter from the Southeast stated that although irrigated pastures are fine, non-irrigated crops are really struggling due to lack of moisture, and the little rain they have received has not been enough to counter the dryness. 

A fourth reporter from the Southeast estimated that serious losses will occur due to the dry conditions which still persist, in spite of some small rains, and that only crops with irrigation are doing well. Stock water supplies across Wyoming were rated 14 percent short and 86 percent adequate, compared to 2 percent very short, 12 percent short, and 86 percent adequate the previous week. Irrigation water supplies were rated 1 percent poor, 12 percent fair, and 87 percent good.

But Williams remains optimistic for the irrigation supply both this year, and moving forward as carryover for next season, he said. 

“We’re anticipating pretty good carryover this fall, if we get relatively average conditions,” Williams said. “If it really turns dry, we’ll still have good carryover, just not as much.

“With the supply we have now, we’re anticipating good carryover in the fall.”

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