This graphic shows past records and predictions based on the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI). Provided the by U.S. Forest Service.
Weather…. We all care about it. In many communities, local TV and radio weather forecasters are celebrities, and for good reason. While we can’t do much about the weather, it affects us all every day.
During last week’s Agricultural Outlook Forum two sessions drew exceptionally large crowds. One was the Friday afternoon “Weather and Agriculture” segment and another was the morning “Markets and Weather” presentation. While no one can say for sure what the weather outlook will be for the 2014 summer growing season, Brad Rippey, agricultural meteorologist with USDA’s Office of the Chief Economist (OCE), Eric Luebehusen, OCE ag. meteorologist and Anthony Artusa, meteorologist with the Climate Protection Section of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration made some observations and predictions in the afternoon session. The snowpack in the West’s Sierra Nevada is far below normal. The Western winter wet season has been a bust, with winter precipitation less than 10 percent of average in some areas. California, the Great Basin and southern Great Plains are in drought. The meteorologists said California, the lower gulf coast and much of New Mexico, Arizona and Texas could see above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation in March, April and May. According to Rippey, “We need a miracle March in 2014 to avoid major problems in California.” The most current information is available through NOAA’s Seasonal Drought Outlook map and the USDA drought monitor. Read more »
Pete Berscheit uses rotational grazing on his Minnesota farm to improve production while helping the environment. NRCS photo.
Pete Berscheit has wanted to farm since he was five. But with three brothers interested in farming, he didn’t think the fourth-generation family farm in Todd County, Minn. would be large enough to support everyone.
So instead of farming, Berscheit joined the Army at 17, where he served for 20 years. Toward the end of his Army career, repeated deployments were starting to take a toll on his young family, and in 2008, he and his wife, Rosemary, decided to return to their roots.
Berscheit and his family bought a place to support a small herd of 40 Black Angus cow and calf pairs, fulfilling his nearly lifelong dream of becoming a farmer. The farm is about three miles from where he grew up in central Minnesota. The farm was a good location and was a good fit for raising a family and starting his ranch. Read more »
A Dust Bowl era poster urged farmers to plant windbreaks.
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.
The language on the 1930s poster for the Prairie States Forestry Project was downright plaintive: “Trees Prevent Soil Erosion/Save Moisture/Protect Crops/Contribute to Human Comfort and Happiness.”
The mission of the project, initiated by President Franklin Roosevelt, was to encourage landowners to plant tree windbreaks on cropland ravaged by dust storms and drought. As a result, more than 210 million trees from North Dakota to Texas were planted in 18,500 miles of windbreaks, some of which still remain. Read more »
Young soybean plants thrive in the residue of a wheat crop. This form of no till farming provides good protection for the soil from erosion and helps retain moisture for the new crop. NRCS photo.
How can farmers reduce their fertilizer costs, maintain yields, reduce their environmental impacts, and take advantage of a new and emerging source of income? A project funded by a USDA Conservation Innovation Grant is showing how.
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service awarded a CIG grant in 2011 to the Delta Institute to develop an innovative opportunity for farmers to receive greenhouse gas emissions reductions payments from the voluntary implementation of more efficient nitrogen fertilizer management techniques.
The Delta Institute engaged a variety of partners in the project, including American Farmland Trust, Conservation Technology Information Center, Environmental Defense Fund and agricultural retailers. Read more »
NRCS Maryland leadership joined the midshipmen for the service project. NRCS photo.
In the middle of the Broadneck Peninsula in Cape St. Claire sits a part of Maryland history that was neglected until a few years ago. The empty house resting on 30 acres was once part of Goshen Farm, a working farm that nearly covered the entire peninsula. Corn, wheat, beets, buckwheat and cabbage, as well as food for oxen, cows, pig, sheep, horses and mules grew abundantly, nourished by the rich and healthy soil.
Now, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is working with the Goshen Farm Preservation Society, Inc. to protect this farm – and put it back to work. NRCS and the society want to raise awareness of the importance of healthy soils for long-term, sustainable agricultural production, and Goshen Farm is the perfect place. Read more »
As the world’s focus on mobile computing intensifies, several USDA agencies are working towards solutions for technology users in an off-line environment. These agencies are developing mobile applications that allow workers to input and collect data in the field, help firefighters share wildland fire information as it happens, and keep employees in the field and out of the office connected – all without a Wi-Fi connection.
With more and more organizations embracing the mobility movement as a way to improve communication and productivity, off-line technology users are in danger of being left behind. Without connectivity, their tablets and smartphones are little more than costly accessories. They cannot share essential information with their colleagues. They waste valuable time travelling to a fixed workstation to submit paperwork – paperwork that they could have otherwise submitted via a mobile tablet. Bottom line: users of USDA applications need the ability to work anywhere, whether they are connected or not. Read more »