Farmers gamble with annual corn crop

In this June 27, 2013, photo a corn plant is seen in a field in Madrid, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

GADREN CITY, Kan. — For farmers like Mike Deaver, the amount of water they can take out of their wells each year is limited by state water allocations.

Corn is one of the most water dependent crops planted in Kansas, needing about 30 inches of water to produce a good harvest.  Now, with the ground temperature at a constant 50 degrees it’s time to plant corn seed, but there’s just one problem.

“We’ve spent extra water in places on the wheat, so we have less water for the corn.  We just have to manage that throughout the whole year,” Deaver said.

With the drought the water for the corn will most likely come from the shrinking supply of groundwater and when farmers use up their allocation, they’re crop is in trouble.

“You’re just done, shut it off.  [The crop] will die,” Deaver said.

Farmers can turn to a five year flex plan when they’ve hit their limit.

“If they have to use more this year, they can make it up over four years and they can adjust their management programs,” said Jason Norquest, Assistant Manager at the Southwest Kansas Groundwater Management, District 3.  “It gives them more time to work it in.”

They’ll have to make up for what they’ve taken by using less water on a future crop.  It’s something Deaver hasn’t done before, but he the last two years have been tough.  “I would consider it, rather than let them die,” he said.  “It’s hard to watch them die and not be able to do anything about it… it is.”

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