Jerry Volesky   By Jerry Volesky, Range Specialist

While many parts of the state have been experiencing very dry conditions, most of the Sandhills rangelands appear to be holding their own with respect to pasture growth. At the Gudmundsen Sandhills Lab (GSL), April and June precipitation was below the long term average, but May and July had just over 4 inches (Table 1, Figure 1). Through July, the cumulative forage year precipitation (since last October) was near the long-term average.

From our annual mid-June sampling of upland range production at GSL, we found current year forage production at that time to be 1,083 lb/acre (Table 2). This is close to the long-term average for that date. In 2020, and likely because of the favorable May precipitation, production from cool-season grasses and sedges was higher than average. Warm-season grass production was below average, likely hindered by the drier June. The majority of the July rainfall fell during the last half of the month, but this still has the potential to help warm-season grass growth because those grasses did still have some growth activity. During the drought of 2012, grasses did go into a drought-induced dormancy and any rainfall that occurred in late July or early August did not have any effect on warm-season grass growth the remainder of that growing season.

 

Table 1. Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory precipitation (in).

 Month

Average

2018-2019

2019-2020

2019-2020 Cumulative

Oct-May

3.36

6.04

5.32

5.32

April

2.14

2.05

0.88

6.20

May

3.04

6.28

4.10

10.30

June

3.66

2.86

1.74

12.04

July

2.95

3.48

4.04

16.08

August

2.15

6.40

 

 

September

1.76

1.83

 

 

Total

19.06

28.94

 

 

    

Cumlative Precipitation  Figure 1

Table 2. Mid-June production (lb/acre) of upland range at GSL by plant functional group.

 

Cool-season grasses & sedges

Warm-season grasses

Forbs

Shrubs

Total

2020

727

271

56

18

1,083

2007 – 2019 Ave

505

422

102

18

1,060