Water, or lack of it, tops the list of concerns voiced by Southwest grain farmers at the recent Commodity Classic in San Antonio.

“Long-term, we will have to regulate water use,” said Steve Albracht, Hart, Texas, grain and cotton farmer and the 2013 National Corn Growers Association yield contest winner for irrigated production. His 418.34 bushel per acre yield earned him top honors and from an area that continues to suffer from a drought that’s into a fourth year.

Partnerships help manage water resources.

Average rainfall for his area, up in the Texas Panhandle, is 16 or 17 inches. He’s had nowhere near that much in the last three seasons—11.3 inches last year, 5.6 inches in 2012 and only 2.6 inches in 2011, the worst year he’s ever seen.

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“If I knew going into planting season that I would get only 2.6 inches of rain I wouldn’t even plant,” Albracht said. The long-term drought and increasing demand are reasons he believes conservation will be critical.

“If we don’t (regulate) we will not have enough,” Albracht said.

Martin Kerschen, a Garden Plains, Kansas, farmer and a board member for the Sorghum Checkoff , agrees that moisture stress will be an issue. “Water is our biggest challenge,” he said. “That’s one reason we’re promoting sorghum as we look for ways to grow crops with less water.”

He’s grown sorghum for 25 years and also grows wheat.

He said as a board member he’s trying to spread the word about the value of sorghum in a sound rotation program. “We also want to spend our checkoff money wisely,” he said. Key goals for checkoff funds include research efforts to increase sorghum yields. “We also need varieties with stronger stalks. Stewardship is a big issue.

“We also need to maintain the renewable fuels standard and increase exports,” he said.

Kerschen said his wheat crop looks okay for now. “It’s not too bad. We have just the right amount of growth on it for this time of year.”