From The Fort Morgan Times (Sara Waite):
A combination of conditions have made it “a different year” for agriculture, according to Brush-area producer Dan Kendrick.
Kendrick has plenty of experience to make that assessment. A Morgan County native, he grew up in ag and, after what he calls a “hiatus” from the industry after college, when he spend 14 years in the lending industry, he’s been a producer for the past 20 years. His operation includes growing hay and corn, some custom farming, and raising sheep and cattle. He also works in risk management for AgWest Commodities.
Kendrick said hot, dry and windy conditions in June impacted his crops, and there wasn’t enough water in the river to go around. It wasn’t the first drought the veteran farmer has experienced – he recalled 2012 was the last really dry spell — but “it’s never fun,” he said.
Drought conditions have been felt by farmers across the state.
According to a Denver Post article in August, this year’s wheat harvest was one of the smallest the state has seen in the past decade. The lack of water, and its impact on rangeland, was forcing ranchers in the state to consider cutting their herd sizes.
Fred Midcap, a Wiggins-area farmer, told The Denver Post he thought the northeastern plains had received about 14 inches of snow over the past winter, a steep decline from the 40 inches it usually gets. Yearly average rainfall is around 13 inches; Nick Midcap, Fred’s son and a partner in the family farm, estimated the area had seen just 6 to 7 inches of total precipitation.
The Post reported that wheat yield was also down, with the USDA putting Colorado at 30 bushels of wheat per acre this year, compared to 49 bushels per acre last year…
In northeast Colorado, most of the area is experiencing severe drought, with extreme drought in portions of Washington and Yuma counties. Northwest Logan County is under moderate drought.
Kendrick said that in addition to drought, another weather-related phenomenon impacted his hay production this year, albeit in a much less significant way. Smoke from Colorado wildfires have obscured the sky off and on over the summer and into the fall. It was especially hazy the week he did his mid-summer cutting, and the hay took longer to dry and “bleached out” during the process.
His experience was in line with what Dr. Joe Bummer, a forage specialist with the Colorado State University Extension, surmised could happen. He said unless smoke is extremely dense, it’s unlikely to affect the plant’s photosynthesis – the process plants use to absorb sunlight and convert carbon dioxide and water into nutrients — but he could see it slowing the drying process a bit.
“The delayed drying would decrease the quality to some degree as there is still some respiration in the cut plants until they reach 40% or less water content,” he said.
The result, he thought, could be a slight decrease in quality, although he said the only way to be sure would be to test the hay and see how it compares to previous years.