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Posts tagged: drought

Conservation and Innovation Preserve Water Resources for Generations to Come

An infographic exploring water conservation efforts across American commodity production. AMS product. (Click to enlarge).

An infographic exploring water conservation efforts across American commodity production. AMS product. (Click to enlarge).

Farmers have always been particularly attuned to the forces of nature – it’s in the job description, after all. When the regularity of growing seasons collides with the irregularity of extreme conditions like droughts, floods, windstorms, the American farming community is motivated to innovate and conserve.

For years, farmers have been leveraging the collective power of research and promotion programs to invest in research that improves on-farm practices through both innovation and conservation. Their efforts, with oversight from USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), has resulted in significant water and soil conservation, safeguarding our land for future generations.

Critical among these practices is smart irrigation.  Almond growers in California have funded 71 irrigation projects over a 32-year period.  Through these projects, growers have learned that micro-drip irrigation not only uses much less water than older methods, but also generates more vigorous plant growth.  With the targeted distribution and uniformity, this increases crop production. Read more »

Get to Know Alabama Agriculture

Who knew? Now you do! Check back next Thursday for another state spotlight from the 2012 Census of Agriculture and the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Who knew? Now you do! Check back next Thursday for another state spotlight from the 2012 Census of Agriculture and the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.

Alabama may be known as the Cotton state, but there’s a lot more to our agriculture than cotton, a point reinforced by the data in the most recent Census of Agriculture. While more than 376,000 acres of nearly nine million acres of farmland in the state are dedicated to cotton farming, there are now more farms growing corn (2,112 farms) and soybeans (1,502 farms) in Alabama than those growing cotton (925 farms).

All in all, it was great to see how well our farming is doing, especially considering that in 2012 we saw one of the worst droughts in history. More than 90 percent of Alabama was affected by the drought that year. Despite these tricky conditions, our farmers sold more than $5.5 billion worth of agricultural products in 2012, a 26 percent increase from the previous census, taken in 2007. Read more »

Small Operation Perseveres Until Drought Relief Comes

Keegan Poe received disaster funding for grazing losses he suffered during the drought in 2012.

Keegan Poe received disaster funding for grazing losses he suffered during the drought in 2012.

This post is part of a disaster assistance program feature series on the USDA blog. Check back every Wednesday as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s Farm Service Agency.

Keegan Poe of Johnson County, Indiana is a busy man. Not only is Poe a regional manager for Indiana Farm Bureau, but in his “spare time,” he holds down a second full-time job raising beef cattle and running Poe’s Quality Meats where he sells family raised beef and lamb direct from farm to consumer.

“My family has raised sheep for 70 years here in Indiana, but my passion for raising cattle started with one dairy steer when I was involved with 4-H as a youth,” said Poe. “I asked my dad if I could show cattle and he said, ‘sure’ and the rest is history.” Read more »

Watching Our Water

Preventing movement of agricultural chemicals from crop fields to streams is a key part of protecting our water quality.  Here, an ARS scientist examines a farmer’s subsurface drain pipe.  Photo by ARS.

Preventing movement of agricultural chemicals from crop fields to streams is a key part of protecting our water quality. Here, an ARS scientist examines a farmer’s subsurface drain pipe. Photo by ARS.

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 the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

There’s no farming without water. Recent droughts in the United States and elsewhere underscore our need to conserve water in agricultural production, and studies have identified agricultural management practices that help protect water quality.  USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) researchers are making key contributions to these efforts.

For instance, ARS scientists use moisture information collected by satellites to develop the Evaporative Stress Index.  In 2012, this tool predicted that drought conditions were developing weeks before other drought monitoring networks made the same call. ARS researchers also use satellite data to design methods of estimating rainfall amounts in regions where setting up sampling stations would be a challenge, work that has long-range potential for improving precipitation estimates globally. Read more »

Western USDA Water Supply Forecast Tracks Melting Snowpack

Snowmelt on Mount Hood sends ample water down a stream in Oregon. NRCS photo.

Snowmelt on Mount Hood sends ample water down a stream in Oregon. NRCS photo.

April storms delivered a mix of rain and snow to the northern half of the West but didn’t provide much relief for the dry southern half, according to the latest USDA water supply forecast.

Washington, most of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and the northern parts of Colorado and Utah, are expected to have near normal or above normal water supplies, according to the forecasts from the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s National Water and Climate Center (NWCC).  Streamflows that are far below normal are forecast for the southern parts of Oregon and Utah, southwestern Idaho, California, Arizona, New Mexico and western Nevada. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Helping America’s Farmers Rise to the Challenge of Climate Change

Farmers, ranchers and foresters have long understood the need to care for our land and water—not only because preserving those resources for our children and their children is the right thing to do, but because they know that our farms and forests are more productive and efficient when they’re properly cared for.

Science and technology has expanded our capability and improved our understanding over the years, but this core mission remains the same. Today’s farmers and ranchers have risen to the twin responsibilities of producing safe, affordable food while employing cutting edge conservation practices on their operations to conserve water, minimize runoff, prevent soil erosion, and preserve wildlife habitat. They know that this will only become more critical as we take on the challenges of feeding a growing global population and dealing with the impacts of a changing climate. Read more »