Autumn has entered the valley with a break from daily high temperatures, patchy cloud cover and rain showers. But it will take more to pull back from the intensification of the drought.
According to the US Drought Monitor map released on Thursday, October 6, parts of the high plains region have experienced one category degradation.
Scotts Bluff County has moved to 100% severe drought, from 99.19% the previous week and 17.6% three months ago. The southwestern corner of the county moved to 8.7% extreme dryness from 8.66% the previous week. It should be noted that 31.36% of the county was in extreme drought in October 2021.
Although the current situation is not great, it will give crops and pastures a little boost.
Gary Stone, a water and integrated crop specialist at the Panhandle Research, Extension and Education Center, said the recent downpours won’t stop the harvest.
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“It’s slowing down but it’s not going to stop it, unless we get an inch or more somewhere,” he said.
Moisture in small doses can actually help harvest progress for some crops.
“It will help the sugar beet harvest to some degree because it will keep the soil loose, it won’t dry out or get very hard,” Stone said.
While sugar beet trucks will be rolling steadily during the regular season harvest, cornfields will benefit from the moisture and lack of hot, dry wind. Corn was reported to be drying out rapidly in the last week of September. According to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service’s October 2 crop progress report, 24% of the corn crop has been harvested, 8% above the five-year average.
“Maybe some of the corn will be a little late,” Stone said. “That bit of extra moisture might give it a boost to finish it. We haven’t had hot days and stronger winds, it’s been cooler and the winds have lessened, so the corn plants aren’t going to dry out as quickly.
In addition to cool season pasture grass, emerging winter wheat will benefit from the timely change in weather.
“It will definitely help winter wheat,” Stone said.
According to the National Weather Service’s extended forecast for October 6, the valley will continue to experience mild conditions with no significant moisture impact on the immediate horizon.
Historically, the average temperature for the Panhandle is 63 degrees for October. The first snowfall in Scotts Bluff County was October 12, 2021, and the average first snowfall is October 22.
The National Weather Service reports that the Scottsbluff area received 0.18 inches of precipitation from October 1-5. Another 0.26 inches fell at the weather service’s Heilig Field recording station on the night of October 6. Average precipitation for October is 1.14 inches and three inches for snowfall in the Scottsbluff area.
Stone traveled to the tri-state marker of Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska on Oct. 1 and said the area had recently experienced significant rainfall.
“They had a lot of rain the day before,” he said. “Across northeast Colorado, through Kimball, Cheyenne, and maybe a bit into Banner County, that’s where the rain fell. Although it still shows that it’s a D3 (extreme drought), they have some moisture there.