Drought, Water Among Issues at CROP-TIP Field Day

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The Upper Big Blue NRD says their CROP-TIP test plot near York lets them do something that a lot of their producers can't do: take big risks.

Producers can benefit from the plot's results though when the NRD shares them and other tips at their annual Field Day.

"It gives us the opportunity to go out and do some real world research on a test plot," says UBBNRD's Public Relations Coordinator Scott Snell. "We do a lot of farm demonstrations, things that correspond with limited irrigation and limited fertilizing."

Limited irrigation was a problem in much of central Nebraska this year, and as prices fluctuate and the drought continues, it's an issue for next year too.

But businesses like CropMetrics are working on ways to help producers maximize water use through mapping and measuring technology.

"It's a technology for better distributing irrigation to more effectively optimize yield and manage against any type of run off or waste," says CropMetrics President Kevin Abts.

He says their 30/30 program can show producers how flat rate water application isn't as effective as a spacially optimized water application based on soil types.

"If it's a situation where we're not getting enough moisture and you have drier parts of the field, we can target more water to those parts of the field without sacrificing the other parts of the field," says Abts.

But if producers are able to save water and come up with decent yields next year, there's still a volatile market to contend with.

"I think we're going to have a better production this next year as a nation, but not trendline yields," says Sue Martin, President of AG & Investment Services. "That's a key because we won't get ourselves grown back in supplies because usage will continue to outstrip."

Martin says if the drought lifts or diminishes some it will have a psychological effect.

"It'll turn the market and probably create a little bit of a cloud over us and it'll cause prices to soften," she says. "Still, underneath all this world supplies are extremely tight."

Officials say tight supplies mean it's even more important to grow more with less...even less water.

"If we ever get into a situation where it's insurmountable and we really think that we're up against the wall, we've got measurements and rules and regulations in place to be able to mitigate the shortages we might have with drought," says Snell.

The UBBNRD says they've had a groundwater management plan in place since 1979 so they can ensure viable water for the future, not just for crops, but for communities as well.