Rain welcome, whenever it arrives

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

No matter when it comes, rain is welcome in the Golden Plains of Southwest Nebraska and Northwest Kansas. That was especially true early this morning, when residents of the McCook area were awakened by claps of thunder, flashes of lightning and a very needed soaking rain.

At daylight, farmers and townspeople rushed out to check their rain gauges, finding amounts ranging from one to three inches. Among them was Kent Been, the extension educator for Red Willow County.

He measured 2.15 inches of rain at his place, located southeast of McCook in the Ash Creek area. "This is very positive news, especially for wheat farmers," he said.

Because the ground was so dry, wheat farmers were worried about planting, but the morning rain will help, even though planting season is still 30 days away.

The rain will also give a boost to milo, alfalfa and pastureland, Been said.

The one big worry is dryland corn. "As dry as it has been, the outlook is not promising," the extension educator said, pointing out that some of the corn "has already gone the trip."

For irrigators, the rain is welcome because it will allow them to shut their wells off for a while. That translates into a big savings, as irrigators will be able to conserve both water and fuel. The effect -- in dollars -- is significant, because one circle of a pivot can cost $1,000 or more.

At amounts of that magnitude, it doesn't take long for the economic benefit of the rain to add up. When considered from an area-wide perspective -- including crops from both sides of the state line -- the rain could easily make more than a million dollar difference in farm income.

Still -- as usual -- more rain is needed. Even with this morning's downpour, McCook is .30 below the average rainfall for the year. Total to date for the rainfall measuring point at the McCook Regional Airport is 15.72 inches, while the average rainfall by this date totals more than 16 inches.

Today, though, no one is complaining. While we are hoping for more rain, we are grateful for the moisture we did receive.

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