Western Nebraska Observer - Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

By Sydney Yalshevec

Drought loosens its grip on Western Nebraska


Winter is coming to a close and spring, as some like to say, has sprung. Despite the random snow storms that Nebraska is susceptible to as late as May and even June, in some past instances, now is the time of year that farmers are getting ready to plant their crops. A lot of forethought goes into farming, and it takes patience and a knowledge of things like soil temperature and and an outlook on future precipitation levels.

Al Dutcher, state climatologist in association with the UNL Extension, recently wrote a few articles concerning spring temperatures being later than normal, soil temperatures, and the amount of moisture seen throughout fall and winter. His concern was with eastern Nebraska, their moisture this winter started out with a surplus of 2-5 inches and by March it had been lost.

However, according to Dutcher Kimball had 39.5 inches of snowfall this winter. The largest amount Kimball received was on February 23, that day saw 11 inches of snow. Kimball also had 20 days where the temperature was zero degrees Fahrenheit or lower. These low arctic like conditions caused the ground to develop a frost layer and at some northern locations of research for the UNL Extension the ground frost went as deep as three to four feet. The entire southern panhandle received an average of 25-50 inches of snow. Dutcher assured that Kimball is within normal range concerning snowfall.

As for whether or not Kimball could be experiencing drought conditions Dutcher offers some good news.

“Drought conditions are looked at in time periods. Drought monitors, concentrated on certain time frames and all their time periods are within the normal or above normal precipitation and the only timescale where it’s not above normal are the 24 month stretch which is still including the effects from the 2012 drought,” Dutcher said.

Dutcher also explained that the basins that accumulate snow pack from which Kimball receives run off do have a good snow pack this year. In addition to a good run off of water, the snow pack allows for proper evaporation and into the atmosphere which is part of what will cause thunderstorms.

However, due to March temperatures being behind schedule and extemporaneous snow storms spring temperatures are behind schedule. This means that the soil temperatures are rather low for this time of year.

“We look at our soil temp in terms of agricultural planting and we want our soil temps to get up to an average of 50-55 degrees at the four inch mark. Currently the solid temperatures are still very low,” Dutcher said.

Low soil temperatures can mean trouble for some farmers. Bob Klein, a Western Nebraska Crop Specialist with the UNL Extension, explained what problems low soil temperatures can present.

“Farmers will wait to plant their crops if the soil temperature is too low. What happens when it’s too low is a hinderance to the germination process. Seeds won’t germinate properly and can go bad, resulting in no crops,” Klein said

Soil temperatures are not the only thing to watch out for though. Klein cautions farmers about planting their seeds too close to the surface.

“If you plant too close to the surface and we do experience a spring frost then there is no protection for your seeds. They’re ruined. Where if you plant deeper they have more protection. You don’t want to plant too deep, but, if you do err, it’s better to plant too deep,” Klein said.

Klein admits that the lower temperatures can result in delayed planting but says that the spring frosts shouldn’t be too much of a worry to already planted crops because of the durability of the modern seed.

“The way seeds are now, they should be pretty good so long as they aren’t planted too close to the surface,” Klein said.

Dutcher predicts that the soil temperatures for the end of April should get up to the fifties. So the ground should be ready for crops.

In the past, farmers have not had the equipment to plant large amounts of seed quickly. It would take them a very long time to plant their entire fields. However, with modern farming equipment Klein seems confident in the modern farmer’s ability to plant in the warm weather window even if it’s only a few days.

“Usually April 20th starts the planting, but we will have to see if we get those warmer temperatures. Thankfully farmers are pretty well equipped these days as far as equipment is concerned and they can get a lot done in one or two days with their equipment. So that helps with the planting in time for the warm weather,” Klein said.

Overall Western Nebraska seems to be in better shape concerning moisture than eastern Nebraska.

“Western Nebraska is doing well, about average moisture levels. I just wish some of that moisture would come east,” Dutcher said.


Reader Comments


Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2018