The area is still in a severe to exceptional drought in the Panhandle and parts of western and southwestern Nebraska. The predicted surface-water irrigation supply may be in the 50- to 60-day range. Groundwater users continue to be under allocations and, in a few cases, may have exceeded their pumping amounts.
With all of this uncertainty, what are producers to do? A number of tools are available to help you manage water resources, according to Gary Stone, Extension educator at the UNL Panhandle Research and Extension Center in Scottsbluff.
One is Water Optimizer. It is a Microsoft Excel-based program that can estimate a profit-maximizing cropping mix based on a limited amount of water. The Water
Optimizer program has four "models" to calculate a cropping mix: single-field, single-year; single-year, multi-field; multi-year, multi-field; and an independent budget calculator to estimate production costs. Each model seeks to maximize the average net return based on the producer's estimated water supply and crop production preferences.
This tool has several options that allow users to customize the model to reflect their farm, according to Stone. Water Optimizer asks for information such as soil type, well/pump specifications, preferred nitrogen levels, production costs, and anticipated
market price for commodities. Through these selections, producers can compare a
variety of commodity mixes. "We suggest starting with the single-field, single-year model, as it is the simplest form of the program," he adds.
Be sure to download the Operator Manual for the model you select. For additional help with crop budgets or Water Optimizer use, contact Jessica Johnson or Gary Stone at 308-632-1230.