DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) — The winds have been howling ominous warnings across Colorado’s Prospect Valley this spring. Marc Arnusch, who farms with his family near Keenesburg, has already destroyed some fields of drought-withered winter wheat and barley. Last week, gale-force winds toppled the tower that transmits global positioning information to the tech-savvy farm.
Arnusch is quick to tell those unfamiliar with western agriculture that drought is always around every corner even in the best of years. Access to water seeps into nearly every discussion and decision here. Still, it has been several decades since the weather pattern has been this dry and this dire in his area, he said.
DTN readers will learn a lot about western agriculture and how Arnusch Farms adapts to challenges and embraces change during the coming months. Each season, two farmers are chosen from a list of volunteers to report on crop conditions and the many aspects of farm life through the feature called View From the Cab.
Also providing reports throughout the 2022 growing season will be Luke Garrabrant, who farms near Johnstown, Ohio, about 35 minutes southeast of Columbus. Watch for the profile on his farm next week to learn more about how this young farmer has built a business that includes row crops, beef cattle and a custom spraying and fertilizer business.
While wild weather might be top of mind this spring, the diary-like feature promises to be filled with innovative thoughts as our two farmers face chaotic crop, input and land prices.
Hop aboard for a view from Weld County, Colorado — the largest agricultural county in the state and No. 8 in value of total agricultural products sold in the U.S., according to the latest Census of Agriculture.
RIM OF PROSPECT VALLEY
Arnusch Farms sits on the rim of the Prospect Valley about 45 minutes east of Denver. Marc’s grandparents, Andreas and Katharina Arnusch, emigrated here from war-torn Austria in the early 1950s. Sugar beets were the mainstay crop in those days.
Today, the mostly irrigated 2,200-acre row-crop farm specializes in producing certified seed wheat, certified seed barley, and grains for the craft beer and spirits industry. Nighttime temperatures are 3 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit cooler in the valley than in surrounding areas — an environment that favors growing these specialty grains for a higher-value proposition.
Remaining acres are typically devoted to feed ingredients such as silage, grain corn and dairy-quality alfalfa. This year, grain sorghum will be substituted for corn in hopes of finding a more water-sipping alternative to the current severe drought situation. It will be the first time the farm has grown milo.
A look back at the farm’s performance in the National Wheat Yield Contest offers some perspective as to how dry conditions have become. Arnusch said 2021 dryland yields came in at a “devastating 20 bushel per acre (bpa).” Only one year earlier, the farm recorded contest entries of 79.6 bpa in the dryland winter wheat category and 161.8 bpa irrigated. In 2019, Arnusch Farms took honors for their 210.52 bpa entry in the irrigated winter wheat category, the second-highest overall yield recorded in the contest that year. Their winter dryland wheat entry topped the state contest at 120.9 bpa in 2019.