Colorado Growing Season A Story Of Haves And Have-Nots

May 14, 2018

Farmers across Colorado are in the midst of planting season. Major crops like corn went in the ground in mid-April. Early May is prime planting time for sugar beet and sorghum.

This year, the outlook for these crops depends largely on where they’re planted. For farmers in southern Colorado, the prospects aren’t good.

“The grass is still dormant. It should be green. Stream flows are low,” says Joel Schneekloth, a water resources specialist with Colorado State University.

He’s been spending time around the Arkansas River Basin, which includes Pueblo, Rocky Form and Lamar, all the way down to the southeastern state line.

For the week of May 8, 2018. Yellow represents abnormally dry weather. Darker colors indicate more severe drought conditions.
Credit National Integrated Drought Information System

Schneekloth says the snowpack in this region right now is less than half of what it should be — about 38 percent. According to the National Integrated Drought Information System, counties across southern Colorado are seeing extreme drought conditions, in particular in the southwestern corner where drought conditions are “exceptional.” Schneekloth expects many corn farmers will forego planting and rely instead on their crop insurance to pull through.

But for farmers in northern Colorado, things are looking good.

“It’s kind of the haves and have-nots of southern Colorado and northern Colorado,” says Schneekloth

A good snowpack in the South Platte Basin and rains in May have left northern farmers in decent shape. The NIDIS shows much of the region safe from drought, with a smaller portion under moderate to abnormally dry conditions further south.

Despite a relatively good outlook, Schneekloth says, the northern region will need rains later this summer to finish the season strong.