Irrigation forecast looks for full water season

Andrew D. Brosig/Business Farmer A producer tills the soil May 5 on a field south of Huntley.

MILLS – All indications point toward a full irrigation supply in the North Platte Basin for the coming growing season, according to the latest forecast report from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation regional office in Mills.

“Based on this month’s projection of above-average runoff, we expect the North Platte Basin water contractors will have a full water supply this year,” said Carlie Ronca, Wyoming Area Manager, in a press release.

May forecasts indicate snowmelt runoff will be greater than average. Total runoff for the April through July period is forecast as slightly more than one million-acre-feet in the basin above Glendo Dam. That amounts to 111 percent of the 30-year average runoff. 

Approximately 228,500 as of the forecast amount accumulated in April, 151 percent of average.

As of April 30, reservoirs which feed the North Platte River totaled more than 1.8 million af, 110 percent of the 30-year average. Total conservation storage capacity of the North Platte reservoirs is about 2.8 million af.

That’s good news for producers, as the spring runoff period begins in earnest. According to the National Weather Service forecast office in Cheyenne, locally, that impact will most likely be seen as small rivers and streams start running at moderate to high levels by the end of the week.

Scattered rain is expected over much of the area Friday and Saturday, which will add to the runoff water entering lower-elevation waterways. Flooding of some low-lying areas could be possible going into the weekend, according to the NWS Hydrologic Outlook report dated May 13.

For the week ending May 12, rain showers were the norm across much of the state, accompanied by wind and less-than-normal temperatures, which hampered spring fieldwork, according to the weekly Crop Progress and Condition report from the National Agricultural Statistics Service Mountain Regional Field Office in Cheyenne.

On the plus side, the precipitation only added to available water levels for much of the state, which were ranked mostly in the adequate to surplus levels, similar to previous weeks and better than last year. Portions of north-central Wyoming received some much-needed rain, while other portions of the region remained dry to near-drought conditions, according to reports. Planting in the north-central regions was getting underway last week and reports were livestock in the region was in good condition.

Cooler temperatures hampered crop and grassland development in portions of northeastern Wyoming during the week. In southeastern portions of the state, field ground predominantly remained too wet for work, while strong winds prevented spraying efforts. A good amount of precipitation in the southeastern region helped with pasture development, but delayed corn planting.

Producers were kept busy in western Wyoming, receiving a couple of good rain storms, according to one report, followed by warming temperatures toward the end of the week. The U.S. drought monitor released May 7, showed most of Wyoming with good moisture except for the North Central and Southwestern areas of the state, which were abnormally dry. Irrigation water supplies across Wyoming were rated 4 percent fair, 88 percent good, and 8 percent excellent. Stock water supplies across Wyoming were rated 8 percent short, 81 percent adequate, and 11 percent surplus.

Topsoil moisture was rated 93 percent adequate to surplus, with just 7 percent reported shortage. Likewise, subsoil moisture was 91 percent adequate to surplus, with just a 9 percent shortage reported.

Wyoming producers experienced just more than three days suitable for fieldwork on average across the state, according to the report. That’s almost a day short of the previous week and more than two days shy of the available work days last year.

Barley and sugarbeets led the way last week, with 90-percent planting reported on both crops. Barley growers reported 65 percent of the state’s crop was emerged, with 36 percent of the sugarbeets popping up across the state.

Corn planting stood at 39 percent for the period, well ahead of 11 percent last week but behind last year’s 50 percent for the period. Just 3 percent of the state’s dry beans were in the ground, compared to 1 percent last week and none planted last year.

State-wide, hay stocks on farm as of May 1 total 310,000 tons, a reduction of 3 percent from the 320,000 tons reported for the same period last year, according to the NAAS Agricultural Yield Survey.

Hay production for 2018 was reportedly 2.39 million tons in the state, 5 percent less than 2017. Disappearance from Dec. 1 to May 1 was reported at 1.14 million tons, compared with 1.23 million tons for the same period the previous year.

Nationally, hay stored on farms totaled 14.9 million tons as of May 1, a 3 percent decrease from 2018. This marks the lowest May 1 hay stocks since the 2012 drought and the second-lowest since record-keeping began in 1950.

Winter wheat production across the country was forecast at 1.27 billion bushels, a 7 percent increase from 2018. The May 1 yield forecast is 50.3 bushels per acre, a 2.4 bpa increase from last year’s average 47.9 bpa.

Hard red winter wheat production is forecast at 780 million bushels nationally, an increase of 18 percent from a year ago. Soft red winter wheat is forecast at 7 percent less than last year, at 265 million bushels across the country.


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