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 »
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 »
Tom Brown, Economist, Rocky Mountain Research Station's Social and Economic Values Group, Forest Service, USDA, Fort Collins, CO. outlined climate models during his panel presentation at the 2015 Agricultural Outlook Forum. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.
No one can say with certainty what the American climate will be like 45 years from now, but looking at climate models discussed at the Agricultural Outlook Forum last week in suburban Washington, D.C., the best prediction is that the American southwest will be drier, the northwest may get more rain and less snow, and the entire nation will see more climate variability. Weather swings, and their effect on production, will be more pronounced. Some areas may get too much rain in the winter and spring and not enough in the summer and fall. That’s a guess, but it’s an educated one.
A few things are fairly certain: There will be more people, and with a highly diffused American water management system, it will be a challenge to adapt. People will take priority over crops like rice. Every drop of water will count. It will be necessary for areas accustomed to getting much of their water from melting snowpack to store more water in reservoirs, and water now discarded as “dirty” or “grey” can no longer be flushed away. Read more »
Oklahoma ranchers Julie and Robert Carr credit good old fashioned determination and a USDA Farm Service Agency loan with making it through one of the worst droughts to hit the state.
Since 2011, Julie Carr and her husband Robert slowly watched everything they worked for dry up and wither away.
Julie calls those days lemonade days — long stretches of hardship where life is throwing nothing but lemons and by the end of the day she has made lemonade. But those days were anything but sweet.
“We literally started with nothing,” said Julie, recalling how she and Robert left Texas 30 years ago and moved to Oklahoma just to buy a ranch. “We built this [business] cow by cow and calf by calf.” Read more »
Angela Mushrush, NRCS Nevada soil conservationist (right), talks to Ed Moreda (left) and Henry Moreda about their new manhole structure which was installed as part of an Environmental Quality Incentives Program irrigation pipeline project on their farm. The structure is used to regulate the flow of water. NRCS photo.
Turn on any news station or open a newspaper in Nevada, and you’ll see the effects of the severe drought, now in its third year in the Silver State. It is leaving farmers and ranchers devastated.
Luckily, before the drought’s onslaught, the Moreda Dairy in Yerington, took advantage of a conservation program offered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to improve their farm’s irrigation system, and its owners say they’re thankful they did.
Henry Moreda, his brother, Ed, and his mother, Janet, have run Moreda Dairy in Yerington, 80 miles southeast of Reno, since 1970. The Moredas no longer operate a dairy, but now focus on producing irrigated quality hay and beef cattle. Read more »
With the annual hurricane season brewing and potential winter storms on the horizon – not to mention the ever-present tornadoes, earthquakes, drought and fire – federal agencies are joining forces this month to help Americans prepare for and survive disasters.
September is National Preparedness Month and America’s PrepareAthon! is a national awareness campaign to get families and communities thinking about how to respond in the event of a disaster or other emergency. Saluting the “Be Disaster Aware, Take Action to Prepare” theme, the month’s events conclude on September 30 with National PrepareAthon! Day. Are you getting involved? Read more »