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Dry in June

The last historical snow measurement was the first of June run – and the data showed that water in the mountains is a bit low.  As our Spring floods move on, another data source becomes useful – the drought monitor.  https://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/

A glance at the colors shows that our area is classed as abnormally dry.  The effects of drought are a combination of precipitation and soil moisture.  Here, the recent rains came at the right time for my alfalfa seeding, and the soil profile is pretty well filled with water.  In the spot where I planted, the seedlings have short roots (obviously, as seedlings they’ll need a couple years to develop) while the grasses that survived the tillage still have several feet of roots.  I’ll be hoping for more rains to keep the little alfalfa plants growing against the grass competition.  In another couple weeks, I’ll mow high to handicap the grass.

In a best-case scenario, the soil holds about 2 inches of available soil water for each foot of soil.  Evapotranspiration runs in the range of 0.25 to 0.40 inches per day.  Grass roots can run 3 feet deep (corn 4 feet, alfalfa 5 feet) so we’re at the stage where two rainless weeks can severely deplete the soil’s water reserves.

The drought monitor is updated weekly, and gives a perspective for the entire nation.  On the other hand, a couple minutes with a shovel can tell us how we’re doing at any specific location.

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