Dry Weather Conditions Call for Early Irrigation for Valley

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EDCOUCH – The recent warm and dry conditions are having an impact on farmers in the Rio Grande Valley.

Although irrigation is something typically started later in the spring, the lack of rain is causing cotton and corn growers to tend to their crops early this year. 

Brain Jones grows both cotton and corn in Hidalgo County. He says he normally starts irrigation in mid-April.

He says with how things are right now, he'll have to start sooner than expected.

"Water is the lifeblood of any crop. Any living thing needs water and so it's very important," he says. 

Jones says the lack of rain is really starting to take a toll on his crops.

"Normally, we'll catch rain here in the first part of March or February sometime, but we haven't seen that happen yet," he explains. 

Jones says right now, most of his fields are in a moderate drought state. This means if he wants to plant cotton he's going to have to irrigate beforehand due to how dry the soil is.

He says irrigation roughly costs him $11 an acre.

When it comes to the Valley, March is typically one of the driest months.

"The weather patterns are such that we stop getting cold fronts," says KRGV Chief Meteorologist Tim Smith. "The tropical moisture is not here, and so typically, we have hot and dry days in the month of March and you can have a day like we've seen already when temperatures reach 100 degrees." 

Smith says this year is turning out to be drier than normal.

"We're only at 20 percent of normal so far this year, so we're well behind and we need significant events to catch us back up," he explains.

According to Smith, the Valley tends to see an increase in rain in April.

Jones says he has no choice but to hold out till then.

While he's hoping for more rain now, when it comes to harvesting for cotton he says that's when it needs to be dry. This begins around mid-July.


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