The state of Nebraska was hit with its second snow storm of the winter earlier this week causing snow days for many and traffic delays for all. While the snow brought an inconvenience, Nebraska is still many inches of precipitation behind for most years. Leading to the looming question, how will the continued lack of snow and rain impact the ongoing drought?
With record lows for precipitation and highs for temperatures, 2012 took the record for both in the 12-year U.S. Drought Monitor data history. Nebraska was the epicenter of the drought this summer, and drought conditions continue to worsen in the beginning of 2013. As you can see in the maps below, at this time last year only a small section of moderate drought conditions existed in Nebraska. However, this year the entire state is in exceptional or extreme drought.
Nebraska’s family farmers are using innovation to ensure they meet growing global demand, while protecting and preserving precious natural recourses we all depend upon, such as water, by using:
- Conservation tillage – Many farmers don’t use plows any more, as new tillage practices focus on disturbing the soil as little as possible. This cuts back on the number of trips across the field saving fuel and reducing soil compaction. Also, leaving residue such as cornstalks in the field conserves soil moisture and reduces the amount of fertilizer, nutrient and irrigation required to grow a healthy crop. Field residue also prevents soil run off when snow melts.
- Advanced seed technology – Seed companies have led the charge to develop seed that is resistant to drought
- Irrigation research – Through soil moisture monitoring, Nebraska farmers are working to cut back on the water they use without affecting yields
- Precision technology – Modern tractors and machinery are equipped with GPS to eliminate overlaps in planting and fertilizer application. Satellite mapping ensures farmers apply just the right amount of nutrients in the right place.
Energy required to produce a bushel of corn over the past two decades has decreased by 37%
While the technology farmers are using helps them to be more environmentally responsible, efficient, and accurate, they still need certain levels of moisture to produce a yield required by a growing and hungry population. So, here’s to rain dancing…or snow dancing!
–Kassi Williams is a proud farmer’s daughter growing up on a cow/calf and grain farm in Iowa. She earned a Bachelor of Science from Iowa State University, majoring in both animal science and public relations. She has been involved with agriculture from birth, working in multiple facets of the industry including the USDA and Extension. Kassi relocated to Nebraska in 2010 to work for a marketing communications agency for a multitude of agriculture clients.