El Niño Weather Brings Pros, Cons For Arizona Agriculture, Ranchers

By Casey Kuhn
Published: Monday, January 11, 2016 - 5:05am
Updated: Tuesday, January 12, 2016 - 3:53pm
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Arizona’s normally sunny winter makes it a great place to grow crops, but the recent rain has pushed back harvesting and could damage certain crops.

Patty Emmert is the specialty crop manager at Duncan Family Farms, which has farm land in Goodyear and Yuma. She manages strawberries and the baby leaves you might find in a spring mix salad bag in the grocery store.

She said those crops are particularly sensitive to the rain.

“It makes the fields a lot muddier, so even when the rain stops to go back in it impacts your yields," Emmert said. "It impacts the soil, so it decreases the volume on your crops.”

On the other hand, the rain could be a good sign for the future of water sources in Arizona.

Julie Murphree with the Arizona Farm Bureau said the El Niño weather could bring ranchers short-term relief with more grass for cattle. But it will take more than a few showers to fix the water problem in the state.

“We can cheer and say this is good, especially for our ranchers in the range lands that need this solid winter-soaking rain," Murphree said. "The reality of it is we need consistent rains and consistent snowpacks probably for another 10 years to replace what we’ve been losing in this 14, 15, 20-year drought, depending on who you’re talking to.”

Murphree said up north, snow brought by El Niño could help strengthen snowpacks, a vital source of water in the West.

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