Beck's Blog

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CropTalk: The Worth of Water

September 2022

Published on Thursday, September 1, 2022

Following Beck’s westward expansion last fall, the Nebraska team has hit the ground running. Mark Pieper and crew have done an exceptional job finding the right people who get the privilege of introducing Beck’s to the state. The reaction from the farming community has been remarkable, and growers are excited about our diverse genetic lineup and the idea of working with a company culture founded on faith. The expansion added over 15 million corn and soybean acres to Beck’s marketing territory and, with it, many unique agricultural challenges and opportunities.

The change in geography as you travel I-80 is one of our most distinguishing qualities. In the state’s southeast corner, the elevation is 840 feet above sea level and climbs to 5,424 feet at the highest point in western Nebraska. To put that in perspective, that is 4,584 feet change in elevation across the state compared to only 430 feet difference from eastern Nebraska to Washington D.C.!

With that kind of elevation change comes vast differences in humidity and rainfall. Southeast Nebraska averages over 30 in. of rain per year, with areas on the western edge of the state totaling less than 15 in. in 2021. From east to west, the average annual precipitation decreases by one inch every 25 miles, which leads me to arguably the most important factor to the state’s agricultural viability - irrigation.

 

 

For much of Nebraska, the farmer’s ability to irrigate is the farmer’s ability to farm. Irrigation development started in the late 1800s by diverting water from the Platte River. This led to a complex canal system dug by teams of horses which brought stored water from reservoirs many miles away to the farms of western Nebraska. These canal systems are still in use today!

Later, the invention of the center pivot tapped into one of the state’s greatest resources and changed the scope of Nebraska agriculture. One of the world’s largest aquifers, the Ogallala Aquifer, stretches from the Dakotas to Texas, with most of its total water storage capacity underlying Nebraska. This is the lifeblood of over 9 million acres of irrigated farm ground in the state. Center pivot irrigation remains the most common, with four of the largest manufacturers of center pivot systems in the world located in Nebraska.

In general, the total water use for a Nebraska corn crop falls anywhere between 24 to 28 in. per year. This year, January-June has been the seventh driest period on record and was accompanied by record-breaking heat. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “When the well is dry, we know the worth of water.”

Corn and soybeans are our top commodity crops, but the diversity across the state and increasingly arid climate as you move west brings a variety of other important agricultural crops, including popcorn, hay, small grains, dry edible beans, potatoes, sugar beets, and many others.

The Cornhusker state is certainly unique. Through regional product selection, genetic diversity, and the best people in the industry- we are up for the challenge and are humbled by the opportunity to help the farmers of Nebraska succeed.

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Author: Marcie Oelke

Categories: CropTalk, 2022

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