A hot, dry summer has had varying effects on northern Utah crops, with production down sharply on dryland farms while irrigated acreage did better, due to an extended growing season, agriculture officials say.
Weber County, which has fewer than 500 acres of dry-farm land, suffered little from the drought, said County Extension Agent James Barnhill."Watermelons, cantaloupes and later-maturing crops that we aren't able to grow because our season is not long enough, were able to mature," he said.
However, onions were smaller than normal, he said, due both to the drought and thrips, small bugs that feed on the foliage of onions.
"Some fields of soft, white wheat looked normal, but inside the kernel looked scalded and shriveled . . . probably because of the heat. I'd never seen that before," Barnhill added.
Alfalfa did especially well where there was water available, with additional cuttings possible because unusual warmth made the alfalfa grow faster, he said.
But nearby Box Elder County suffered this year, because its farmers depend almost entirely on what nature provided in the way of runoff and rainfall.
"They are really devastated in west Box Elder County," said Mark Jensen, county representative of the U.S. Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service office in Tremonton.
"Basically, it's the livestock people who were hurt. They depend on runoff water. The grazing land was hurt," he said.
Barley production also dropped sharply. "We appraised two and three bushels of barley per acre and the normal is 30 to 60 bushels," Jensen said.
The drought has prompted Pine View Water Systems and Weber Basin Water Conservancy District, the two main suppliers of secondary water for Davis and Weber counties, to shut off irrigation water at the end of September - two weeks earlier than usual.
Pine View Manager Ralph Bird said farmers used up water shares faster this summer because of the high summer temperatures and the lack of rain.
But Shawn Olsen, agricultural agent for Davis County, said most farmers in his area had enough water.