Water needs vary by the time of the year and the type of agricultural product being raised. All agricultural producers welcome the slow rains that soak deep into the soil, taking the roots down below the scorching shallow soil areas. Stressed fields and pastures respond immediately to a good gentle rain in a way they don’t with irrigation from a processed water source.
What do our growers do when the rain does not occur when needed? Some have catch ponds that capture runoff water that can be pumped to crops for irrigation purposes. Ranchers and farmers with catch ponds welcome the occasional hard downpour creating runoff. The land is sloped down to the pond and a runoff rain is needed to refill these bodies of water for livestock or irrigation. Others rely on city or community water services, adding considerable expense for watering such large areas with less desirable results than rain water due to the chemicals used in cleaning the water.
Some have wells that depend on an underground water source. At least one grower draws water from the Ogallala Aquifer, which is an underground layer of water that filtered through permeable rock to below ground. Aquifers are dependent on rain both occurring and hitting the recharge area, the area of rock that allows the water to percolate on down to the water table below. The entire area above the aquifer does not necessarily allow water to filter through so the recharge areas must be carefully protected or wells run dry despite rain.
Stacy Finley reported that she plants her pumpkin and winter squash seeds in July, watering only three times if needed during their growing season. Using a community watering system, she pays for each gallon used. If rains don’t occur at the needed times, they flood the field to send the roots deep. After a successful growing season in 2013, heavy fall rains prevented harvesting. They were not able to get a truck into the field and it was too far to carry each large item out through heavy mud. So needed rain can also be detrimental at the wrong time.
Watermelons and tomatoes also show the effects of rain just as they ripen. Soaking up that extra water can cause them to turn mealy, less sweet. Tomatoes may develop a crack on the skin from the sudden absorption of extra water. Both are still edible, however.
Drought also requires supplementary feeding for animals; finding organic feed or hay in a drought can be a challenge of its own and might necessitate shipping from long distances, adding significantly to expenses. Chickens stressed by heat become disoriented and die of dehydration with ample water bowls provided and replenished several times during the day.
Think of our producers when it rains. Rain in Coppell does not mean rain on their lands. They appreciate our concern.