The drought of '56? Bob Klein remembers it. It's that historical perspective he shared with Senator Mike Johanns during a briefing on just how bad this drought is.
"A lot of dry land corn this year won't amount to much," he said.
Bob is the University of Nebraska's western Nebraska crop specialist. From his post in North Platte, he says even irrigated crops are showing stress.
He said, "With irrigation we're seeing a lot of flipping back on ears and so forth because of the lack of water and plants just can't keep up, furnishing enough soil water nutrients to keep up with crop water use."
Irrigated acres should save many farmers. Klein cautions them to think twice about cutting dry acres for silage. And even silage on irrigated acres should leave several rows this winter to trap as much moisture as possible.
He explained, "In western Nebraska we had to conserve crop residue, catch snow, reduce evaporation."
Irrigation has been called the lifeblood of Nebraska agriculture. And it's not necessarily a proposition where some have it and others don't.
UNL Professor Derrel Martin said, "We tend to think of irrigation and dry land farmers and ranchers as being three different people. In many cases it's really the same person and so it's hopefully irrigation's been able to offset the negative, really negative impacts of those other sectors of the ag economy."
The economics are a huge concern. Corn prices have shot up to record levels. But farmers have spent a great deal more to irrigate as much as they have, with less to show for it.
Klein said, "You have good prices but no crop to sell, it doesn't make any difference what the price is."
Bob Klein is an icon, with a half-century of service and research for the University. Even after all those years, with conditions like these still, he's still learning something new.