Irrigating crops for emergence

This is a photo of something we don’t often see in southeast Wyoming: corn being furrow irrigated prior to emergence. The last time I remember seeing this practice widespread across the region was in 2002. In most years, we get enough spring moisture that the corn is able to emerge without the need for irrigation. But this year, the soil is dry. Extremely dry. As some of the old farmers that I grew up with might say, its drier than a popcorn fart.

[side note: I can’t even imagine what was going through the mind of the person who developed that phrase… I’m not even sure exactly what it means. Does it mean a kernel of popcorn can fart, and that the fart is very non-wet? Or is it that after one eats popcorn, one may experience a very dry fart? Please leave a comment if you have any idea how this phrase came into use…]

But how dry is it, from a historical perspective?

For the first time in 10 years, I’m seeing a lot of corn acres being irrigated for emergence. Which led me to wonder, from a historical perspective, how dry is it really? 2002 was certainly dry… I remember lots of talk about drought at the time. So how does 2012 compare? I looked at the historical monthly precipitation data from Torrington, WY on the Weather Underground website. If we look at the period from January to April, Torrington received 0.95 inches of rain in 2002. In 2012, we received 1.42 inches for the same 4 month period. So at least for the first 4 months, 2002 was quite a bit drier than this year. In fact, we’re not too much drier than the 10 year average for these 4 months. The years 2004, 2005, and 2008 also had between 1.2 and 1.6 inches of moisture. But what may separate 2012 is the May precipitation. So far, Torrington has only received 0.18 inches through the first 16 days of May. The average May precipitation from 2000 to 2011 is 1.92 inches.  2002 had the least May precipitation for this period, with only 0.48 inches for the month. So we’re going to have to hurry up and get some moisture to get even close to the 12 year average, and we’re currently on pace to nearly match the lowest precipitation we’ve seen through the first 5 months of the year since 2000.