We have done a lot of research on drought, looking at it as it has
happened in the past down through the centuries, and try to pass along
to you what is important and useful to your ag success. One of the
things you learn is that drought happen on a regular cycle. Short
droughts in the cornbelt happen once every 12 years. Long droughts
(several years.) happen on a 25–year basis and cover a wider area.
Many of these over the centuries have lasted from 10 to 20 years. The
dust bowl 30's drought lasted seven years from some reports and others
say eight years. Compared to some from long–term past, it was
relatively short. So to be determined (since both hit together for this
drought) is this a short–term one– or two–year drought from the 12–year
cycle or is this a 10–year or longer drought.
Whichever it is, it may be
around next growing season as well or even longer. The Texas drought
has been going on for eight years so these folks have been through what
the cornbelt farmer is dealing with for the first time in this
generation in this growing season. They have learned to live with it
and many have adopted what is known as conservation tillage.
We have included information on how this is working in this issue,
realizing Texas has some differences such as year–round weed growth.
However, much of conservation tillage residue systems and low tillage
come from methods that have been accepted in the Midwest for years. The
result of this under actual drought conditions over a long term is what
we are pointing out in the Texas success stories.
Farmers using this in
drought areas find it offers new hope of being in the black during
long–term drought conditions. Costs are far less, yields are up, and
most are sticking with it.
Conservation tillage basically is a system of keeping residue on the
soil service and reducing or eliminating plows and other tillage
equipment. Your editor recently visited a central Iowa farm that is
using a modification of this (before drought) and reported the spread
of earth worms with no tillage was remarkable ( killed off by normal
tillage methods.) and photos of his fields make it easy to identify
exactly how far the worms have spread in a period of two years.
Reports are the soil is like a sponge in worm areas and soaks up every
bit of moisture. Plant roots are able to follow the worm holes and go
deeper down then with plowing. The worms thrive on surface residue
which is retained on the surface. Planting is right down through the
residue, and fertilizer is added with special syringe–type machinery
that places it below the residue without disturbing it. Not yet in use
in the Midwest is the stalk–puller machinery that pulls stalks out by
the roots and places them on the surface residue system (see Texas
article and photos).
All of this may be of little help this crop year,
but you might look into it and gear up for the next season.
We have included some warnings over the past months here on insect
increases during droughts, and finally have answers why grasshoppers
literally explode in numbers during hot dry weather. We have not been
able to verify reports that other insects are showing up in record
numbers. We would like to receive your comments on what we carry (
choose) that has been most helpful and what you would like to see
Harlan Jacobsen Editor
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