Climate/Irrigation

Center pivot irrigation (at left in photo). Approximately 70% of the corn produced in Nebraska receives some water from irrigation during the growing season (this figure is less than 14% nationally). Water is only applied when needed, depending on rainfall.

Nebraska, like many Midwestern states, is well-suited for corn production. Our average temperatures allow corn to flourish, and rainfall is plentiful in many parts of the state. Unique to Nebraska corn production, however, is the ability to supplement that rainfall when needed with irrigation water thanks to the plentiful water supply from the Ogallala Aquifer and reservoirs that capture water from snow-melt and rains as far west as the Rockies.

While approximately 70% of the corn produced in Nebraska receives some water from irrigation at some point in the growing season (this figure is less than 14% nationally), water is only applied when needed, depending on what Mother Nature provides via rainfall. Farmers have become much more sophisticated in their use of water, taking advantage of technology like watermark sensors and evapotranspiration gauges, as well as research from the University of Nebraska and elsewhere. This has dramatically reduced the use of water on those acres that are irrigated – and improvements continue.

On average, corn in Nebraska is planted anywhere from April 15 to June 5, although a majority of the crop is planted between April 25 and May 20. Harvest dates range from September 10 to November 25 – although a majority of acres are harvested between September 30 and October 30. Some years, of course, harvest can stretch well beyond those dates.

As for the climate, it varies from east to west.

Temperature averages for the growing season (May-September):

  • East: 72.6 degrees Fahrenheit (22.5 degrees Celsius)
  • West: 68.7 degrees Fahrenheit (20.4 degrees Celsius)

Nebraska average rainfall (annual):

  • East: 30 inches (76.2 centimeters)
  • West: 18 inches (45.7 centimeters)