Thursday, February 14, 2013

2-Year Recovery Realistic for Midwest Drought

It seems as though we are literally just scratching the surface when making strides recovering from Drought 2012. The latest drought monitor shows us in the clear from a classified drought but long term problem runs deeper.
As of February 13, 2013, 2,333 primary counties within the United States were designated for 2012 Crop Disaster Losses through the USDA with another 423 contiguous counties following last year's historic drought.
New research was released this week from the University of Missouri School of Natural Resources It showed the soils of the Midwest that suffered exceptional drought may take up to two years to fully recover.


At the Paducah National Weather Service, January precipitation was well above normal and ended up being the wettest on record. Much of the Midwest has also seen an uptick in frequency of precipitation but Randall Miles (MU Soil Science Associate Professor) says, "What we may be sinking into the soil now may not get down to the, let's say, four or five foot level until later in the Spring, or early Summer. So it's a long-term investment, we cant just recharge the profile immediately."
Miles' research also shows that some root systems of 2012 crops had to go down as much as 8 feet to extract water. For perspective, 1 foot of soil holds two inches of water. To recharge the soil completely, a fully depleted soil would require about 16 inches of water over normal precipitation amounts.  
Climate Prediction Center - Precip Outlook Mar-May

Any rainfall we see headed into the Spring season would need to be continuous and light to make a full recovery, quickly. Not likely at this point with the latest Mar-Apr-May outlook published by the Climate Prediction Center. Temperatures are expected to be above or well above average (like 2012) and precipitation is expected to be "normal" or average.

Climate Prediction Center - Temp Outlook Mar-May
Soil quality is also a concern as Miles believes that it will take up to two years for microbes and insects that contribute to that quality to recover as well. Economically, wealth of crop and the river industry may continue to suffer until consistent average rainfall can be recorded. Miles goes on to state that bumper crops might be 2 or three years down the road at the current rate we are on.

Reporter Kendall Downing focused a similar story on farmers/researchers in Southern Illinois. Here is his story dated Feb. 14, 2013.....

*Upon completing this blog, I have shared it with several social media outlets to solicit responses from area farmers and growers to see how they will adjust headed into the upcoming Spring growing season. As responses come in, I will post them below. If you have your own response to share, please email me at*

 Viewer & Reader Responses:

Brandon from Missouri: "I'm farming 80 acres this year. It's all dry land so I am forking out almost 4 thousand dollars before I even plant a crop to drop in a new irrigation well and motor to pump it with. This would allow me to water 30 acres of my ground thus cutting my risk down some. As far as the water level, my farm is close to Malden, sandy soil, and water is about 7 feet deep right now...which is about normal. My boss and I are faithful this year will be a good one and not too worries about timely rainfall. God will provide, sometimes you just have to weather a lil dry/wet streak now and then."

Eddie from Kentucky: "The drought will cause me to feed all of the hay I had on hand from pervious plentiful years. Thankfully I did have the hay stocks to get my livestock through the winter, many don’t. I know it took months to deplete soil moisture and it will take much longer to replenish. As of now the flatland fields are slightly muddy on the surface but water is short not far below. Digging post holes three feet deep shows moisture has only reached down about two feet in most places. Last Fall I was able to run my field renovator through my fields. This opens up the soul structure letting water soak in before it can evaporate or run off. We know it will take several periods of steady soft falling rain now and throughout the summer and that’s what I’m praying for. Even with my cows calving at this time I welcome the muddy fields. I have been raising cattle all my life and have learned farming isn’t only about weathering the storms. It’s how you handle the weather between the storms. My land is too hilly to raise row crops on so cattle are one of the few options I have. God put me here to take care of the land and animals He entrusted to me so I know He will provide in His time. Farming is a lifelong commitment and I know good years follow bad so we just have to hang in there."

Resource Credit: Press Release from University of Missouri Extension, 2/11/13
Climate Prediction Center
NOAA - Drought Monitor

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