By Bill Ekstrom
Special to the Herald Times
MEEKER | Drought really is a tough one this year for ranchers but also home owners and turf managers. Consider we currently are under 50 percent of our yearly moisture. In fact, in the last 30 days we have received just .06 inches of precipitation. The new station’s data can be found at https://coagmet.colostate.edu/. We are listed as number 58. The site records weather data including evaporation rate, temperature, wind and precipitation.
What is the value of the station? It becomes very useful in calibrating the amount of water to add to a crop like grass or turf. For example data from June 20 for grass hay showed water usage or evapotranspiration of .26 inches of water. If the field had just been irrigated considering our typical clay/silt soil which will hold about 1.5 inches of water per foot, we can predict how long until the next watering should occur. A very useful tool for lawns and ranchers using sprinkler systems or drip lines.
In my previous career, my neighboring ranch cut their power bill by $25,000 and had better hay. The reason for this savings was simple, over watering followed by under watering. This feast and famine method was changed resulting in better hay at a cheaper price.
So how can we apply this to a lawn? First step, we need to calibrate the amount of water your sprinkler system applies. Then assuming a bluegrass lawn on a 90 degree day will use up to one-half inch of water, the typical turf rooting depth is 12 inches, it will hold 1.5 +/- inches of water. We therefore should not have to water again for three days. Using information from the weather station we can fine tune the application rate to six days and save a lot of water.
Call Bill Ekstrom at the CSU Extension office 878-9494 for more information on water scheduling. While you’re at it, ask how applying long chain polymers can cut your water bill by a reported 10 percent in turf.