Farmer: More rain, less heat needed

Farmers in Curry and Roosevelt Counties say a recent increase in rain has helped produce better crops this year, but more rain and less heat are needed for crops to flourish.

CNJ staff photo: Benna Sayyed

Tye Vineyard, left, Anthony Owusu-Appiah, center, and Courtney Vineyard hoe weeds from pink-eyed pea crops Saturday at Keystone Ranch in Curry County.

Tammy Vineyard, owner of Keynote Ranch in Curry County, grows cream peas, crowder peas and pink-eyed peas. Vineyard said her crops are up 75 percent from last year and attributes this to higher humidity, less wind and a little more rainfall.

"It's critical right now that the heat backs off a little bit," Vineyard said.

"These peas are starting to bloom right now. We need to get down in the 60s for them to bloom."

Vineyard said she has been fortunate to receive a few scattered rains, a quarter inch here, a half inch there, but has to rely heavily on irrigation to help crops produce.

Vineyard and her husband Kevin use center pivot irrigation, a common method of irrigation in the area. Center pivot irrigation waters crops 24 hours a day for months. An extensive sprinkler system draws water from an underground reservoir and spreads out 600 gallons per minute.

Vineyard said she is spending at least 50 percent more in irrigation than in 2009 when their crops were optimal. She said they were able to shut down irrigation for about four days when a inch of rain came a few weeks ago.

According to Vineyard, the area water table has also dropped causing farmers to lose the amount of water they can irrigate with; wells are not pumping as much water.

"If we don't receive rain in the next two weeks, we pretty much got what we got," Vineyard said.

"We're almost at that point where it's going to be too late to really help our summer crops."

Roosevelt County farmer Rick Ledbetter grows chili, corn, alfalfa, cotton and carrots.

"I'm very pleased with my crops this year but I need more rain like everyone else," Ledbetter said.

"We don't need the triple-digit temperatures. That puts us in a bind in a hurry."

Ledbetter said last year's day-after-day, triple-digit weather, which is not as severe this year, hurt his crops most.

According to Ledbetter, the mid-90s and upper 80s is ideal growing weather. Ledbetter also uses center pivot irrigation. He said he has had to push irrigation 25 to 30 times harder when rainfall is not normal.

Ledbetter believes with normal rainfall in the near future, many area farmers should see a 25 to 50 percent better crop this harvest.

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