Most Brazos Valley farmers who were going to plant corn this year are standing by with their planters hooked up just waiting to see if we’re going to get enough rain to risk putting corn and fertilizer in the ground. The vast majority of the Brazos River bottom is able to irrigate, and most irrigation systems are for flood irrigation. We asked if it was possible to water up a crop that was planted under drought conditions.
"If you’ve got the ability to sprinkle irrigate, center pivots or linear sprinklers, or whatever, you’re in a lot better situation for watering a crop up. You can put the crop in the ground, prescribe exactly how much water you want to put out, a half inch, two inches, whatever you think you need, and it’s a uniform irrigation throughout the crop."
Lee Denena says most irrigation done in Brazos River bottom is flood irrigation, and that makes watering up newly planted seeds a little iffy.
"Flood irrigation, because gravity does what it’s going to do, and that water will jump rows, and some rows will get completely saturated like you need, some won’t. Some of these soil textures won’t allow for that, the sandy soils may not wick the moisture up to the seed where it’s planted."
Some farmers will wait, and if a farmer wants to stay with a grain crop, sorghum is an option.
"Back in the early 90s, I planted my milo in the middle of June, and made a crop, we didn’t make a super great crop, but it has a much larger window of opportunity for planting, one, and it’s much more drought tolerant than corn is."
And a farmer could plant cotton for the same reasons.
"Unfortunately, cotton markets don’t favor it. Cotton is not at an optimal level as far as pricing. That’s why a lot of people have looked toward grain."
"There’s a lot of devils in the details. It sounds real easy. If you don’t get to plant corn, go to milo. If you don’t get to plant milo, go to cotton. You’re sacrificing and you’re changing things that you would not have ordinarily done."
There’s just not much of a good alternative to rain provided by Mother Nature prior to planting. It remains to be seen whether this latest opportunity for rain will provide the necessary moisture. If not, farmers will make changes and adapt to this year just like they have in years past. That’s really what farming is all about.