OLATHE - With a looming mid-July early harvest, Olathe Sweet Corn growers report this summer's crop is healthy, despite an ongoing severe drought.
Hot, unseasonably dry weather and high winds have forced growers to become more efficient with irrigation to prepare 1,500 acres of corn for an early harvest in mid-July, according to Kyle Martinez, a farmer with Tuxedo Corn Company in Olathe.
“Even though it’s been a hard summer, in terms of water and weather, the sweet corn crop has been doing very well, Martinez said. “We haven't lost any quality or quantity.”
Both Delta and Montrose counties are now in a short-term severe drought, said Aldis Strautins, a hydrologist with National Weather Service in Grand Junction, with above-average winds and little moisture. As of mid-June, the total amount of accumulated precipitation in northern Montrose County was 1.56 inches – 3.02 inches below last year, in the same period. “That's significant,” Strautins said.
High winds compound the problem, drying out crops and soil. “It just dries the corn out so fast,” Martinez said. Growers compensate with daily waterings, in frequent rotations, to keep crops wet.
But water shares are dwindling, and as of mid-June, Tuxedo growers had consumed 70 percent of the water shares provided to them by the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association.
Martinez said farmers will have to be more efficient with irrigation to avoid overconsumption and maximize crop growth.
Despite the unseasonal and unrelenting winds, growers are coping.
Tuxedo expects to ship over 600,000 boxes of corn this year – an estimated 28.8 million ears of corn. “We'll be right at what we were last year,” Martinez said. The harvest is expected to begin around July 10.
For more information on drought conditions in Colorado visit: http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/monitor.html.