Become a fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter USDA Blog Feed Watch USDA videos on YouTube Subscribe to receive e-mail updates View USDA Photos on Flickr Subscribe to RSS Feeds

Posts tagged: drought

The Morrill Act: 153 Years of Innovations for American Agriculture

Justin Smith Morrill portrait

Justin Smith Morrill served as a Vermont Representative and Senator from 1855-1898. He is best known for authoring the Morrill Act in 1862, which created the land-grant university system, and the Second Morrill Act in 1894, which expanded the system to include historically black colleges and universities. (Historical photo)

July in America.  It is summer time and school’s out. It is about vacations and maybe a trip to the beach. It is Independence Day—the 4th of July—and parades and fireworks.  It is about barbecues, hotdogs, and burgers. 

2015 marks America’s 239th birthday.

July is also the month for another important birthday in America—passage of the Morrill Act on July 2, 1862, which established the land-grant university system, ensuring access to education for all people. Read more »

Rancher Weathers Drought, Restores Prairie Chicken Habitat at Same Time

Christian Hagen, science adviser for LPCI, and Bill Barby (right), a Kansas rancher

Christian Hagen, science adviser for LPCI, and Bill Barby (right), a Kansas rancher, monitor growth of sand bluestem and other native grasses on his 4,000-acre ranch. NRCS photo.

By Sandra Murphy, Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) works with ranchers and partners to improve habitat for lesser prairie-chicken through the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative (LPCI). Focusing on privately-owned lands, the initiative covers five western states. About 95 percent of lesser prairie-chicken habitat is located on private lands. Sandra Murphy is communications specialist for LPCI, a partnership led by NRCS. — Justin Fritscher, NRCS

On a late April morning in southwest Kansas, sand bluestem sways over rancher Bill Barby’s head. A medley of other native grasses — little bluestem, sand lovegrass, and prairie sandreed, and more — fill the pasture around him, providing food for his cattle as well as habitat for the lesser prairie-chicken, a threatened species. Read more »

A Hedge against Drought: Why Healthy Soil is ‘Water in the Bank’

Niagra Falls infographic

As soil health improves, so too does its hydrologic function. This graphic illustrates how much additional water could be stored in the soil of all U.S. cropland with the addition of 1 percent of organic matter.

While most look to the sky for drought relief, an increasing number of farmers are looking to the soil. And for good reason: Healthy soils capture and store much more water – which can come in handy during dry spells.

Through its “Unlock the Secrets in the Soil” campaign, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is leading the effort to get more farmers and ranchers to adopt soil health management systems for a wide range of on- and off-farm benefits – including drought resiliency.

So what’s the water-banking secret in healthy soil? Read more »

Going Wild about Water at the World Water Forum

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research profile.

Water is a precious resource and will become scarcer as the human population continues to grow.  In many areas, climate change is expected to affect weather patterns. In general, the wetter areas are expected to get wetter and the drier areas are expected to get drier. This year, California’s drought has highlighted how important it is for land managers and producers to exercise best practices to increase water quality and quantity so there is enough to go around.

This year, USDA participated in the 7th Annual World Water Forum in Daegu, Republic of Korea. Every three years, the World Water Council hosts the Forum and develops the program in cooperation with the private sector, governments, industry, international governmental organizations, nongovernmental organizations and academic groups. Read more »

Technology to Help Us Deal with Drought

USDA-ARS agricultural engineers Susan O’Shaughnessy and Nolan Clark adjust the field of view for wireless infrared thermometers.

USDA-ARS agricultural engineers Susan O’Shaughnessy and Nolan Clark adjust the field of view for wireless infrared thermometers mounted on a center pivot irrigation system. The wireless sensors are used to measure crop canopy temperature for indications of water stress.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

With droughts becoming more severe, water tables getting lower and an increasing demand for water from growing suburbs and cities, farmers know they need to use water more sparingly. That’s why recently patented technology developed by USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists in Texas is so important.

Steve Evett, Susan O’Shaughnessy, and their colleagues at the ARS Conservation and Production Research Laboratory in Bushland, Texas have spent years trying to help growers maximize water in a region that depends on the Ogallala Aquifer, a massive underground reservoir under constant threat of overuse. They recently developed two complementary technologies that offer practical ways to ensure that crops get only as much water as they need. Read more »

In the West, Preparing for Uncertain Water Supply

The April 1 Snowpack Map shows the dramatic, early reduction in snowpack across the West.

The April 1 Snowpack Map shows the dramatic, early reduction in snowpack across the West.

“Well, this shouldn’t take long,” Dr. David Garen said as I sat down to interview him about April snowpack conditions. “March was warm and dry. Spring came early and the snowpack is already melting across most of the West. The End.”

Garen is a hydrologist with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. Among other duties, he creates forecast maps and helps write the West-wide forecast summary for the Snow Survey Program.

“This year we had record low snowpack up and down the West Coast,” said Garen. “But even in the areas that had normal snowpack, it’s melting earlier than usual.” Historically, April 1st is when the snowpack peaks. This year has been different. Read more »