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Agricultural News

Latest Southern Plains Perspective Blog: Hot, dry, dust and smoke all outside the back door.

Fri, 30 Sep 2022 13:47:20 CDT

Latest Southern Plains Perspective Blog: Hot, dry, dust and smoke all outside the back door. There is a new blog post out at the Southern Plains Perspective, by Clay Pope. Read below!

Hot, dry, dust and smoke….all outside the back door.

The drought just keeps hanging on and on and on……

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words and heavens knows I don’t want to write a thousand words about this drought (now if it would rain, I would write a sonnet with more verses than the song ‘Halleluiah’). Instead, I thought I would just share a few images.

This is a picture of what I saw from my back yard earlier this week.

No, that’s not smoke signals on the horizon-it’s an out-of-control grass fire about 15 miles from my house. This is becoming more and more a normal sight as the dry conditions continue to hang on in my part of the world. It serves as a serious reminder that we all need to be mindful of the risk of wildfire during this time of drought.

Speaking of dry conditions… This is a close up of the region from the latest drought monitor (FYI–the darker the color, the worse the conditions).

As you can see from the map, all three Southern Plains states are suffering from an expanding drought.   In Oklahoma this has translated into the 5th driest September on record (as shown by this graphic courtesy of the Oklahoma MESONET)

And not only has it been dry, but the heat has been above normal as well (as once again illustrated by our friends at the MESONET….who have way too much fun making graphics by the way…)

As you can see from this “interesting” image, the temperature outlook for all of Oklahoma and Kansas and the vast majority of Texas is above average for at least the next couple of weeks.   This, combined with below normal precipitation, means that the drought is only going to deepen as we move through the fall and probably the early winter.

Which leads me to this picture….

If you look closely at the lower right-hand corner of the photo you will see that all this dust is due to someone working up winter wheat ground in my home county.   This individual is trying to get their ground ready to plant. More often than not, producers think that they should “open the ground up to take in a rain” and “bring the moisture up to the top of the soil.”

In all actuallity, what this individual is doing is losing ground to soil erosion while causing any sub-soil moisture that they have to evaporate.    According to Oklahoma State University, roughly 59 percent of the precipitation that falls on winter wheat ground in Oklahoma is lost to unproductive evaporation and a lot of that is due to the types of tillage practices that producers use. In a similar manner, research from the University of Nebraska has shown that you can lose as much as a half to three-quarters of an inch of soil moisture with each tillage pass you make on your farm ground.   Conversely, this same reseach at Nebraska and OSU has shown that if a producer minimizes tillage or utilizes no-till production practices they can hold on to more of their soil moisture and put themselves in a better positon to ride out dry conditions until they can get a rain while greatly reducing both soil erosion and fuel costs.

What am I trying to say with all this?    I guess what I want to get across is the that dry weather seems to be set in for the forseable future.   We need to give some thought about how we can hold on to what mositure we have and not expose ourselves to problems like increased soil erosion on our crop land. We also need to plan accordingly when it comes to managing our grasslands and livestock herds because the drought looks to be here for a while.   



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