Posted 23 July 2012. Crop Management.
Hot, Dry Conditions Impact Crops
The high cost of hot weather
Source: American Society of Agronomy Press Release. www.agronomy.org
Madison, Wisconsin (July 10, 2012)--The heatwave is heating up what's happening in the field. The National Weather Service is monitoring growing drought conditions in the area typically called the "corn belt," reaching as far west as Kansas, south to Arkansas, and east to Indiana.weather experts say the forecast for dry conditions is growing-- from 19 percent of the United States, to The Agriculture Department indicates just over half the current crop is considered in good or better condition.
The figure was 63 percent in mid-June. And in the last month, the future price of a bushel of corn has risen from $4.99 to $6.33, according to Ag Department statistics, which also show the supply of corn immediately available in the United States is down 8 percent from last year. And Bloomberg is reporting 2012 may end up rivaling the $78 billion dollar dry spell of 1988. Read the full Bloomberg report, here: www.bloomberg.com/drought-seen-rivaling-1980s-u-s-scorcher-that-cost-78-billion.
Drought headlines and the science societies efforts, now and then
"Wells Dry Up Due to Lack of Rain" and "Farmers Fear the Worst Following Drought" could be headlines accurate for today's conditions, but it also describes the situation in the 1930's. From Dust Bowl to Dust Bowl is written by a team of researchers and published in the Soil Science Society of America Journal in late 2011. Longtime Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) Member Phillippe Baveye, of the University of Abertay in Scotland, notes in the article, after the dust bowl of the 1930's, farmers were encouraged to implement erosion mitigation practices at a time when many questions about soil processes were still poorly understood. However, Baveye and his team go on to indicate, in spite of remarkable progress in the understanding of soil processes in the last few decades, many aspects of soils still remain extremely elusive and poorly understood. SSSA was formed around the same time the dust storms stole soil and lives. It helped nurture and promote the knowledge, soils are essential to well-being, and continues to work on the science of soil for the future.
Read the article as published in part, in CSA News, here: www.soils.org/files/publications/csa-news/soils-still-a-frontier-of-science.pdf. The website, U.S. History, states the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles were known as the most prosperous regions in the nation during 1930 and early 1931. For plains farmers, the decade opened with prosperity and growth. But in the summer of 1931, those farmers would face the most difficult eight years of their lives. The rain simply stopped.
According to the U.S. History site, it had taken a thousand years for Nature to build an inch of topsoil on the Southern Plains, but it took only minutes for one good blow to sweep it all away. The water level of lakes dropped by five feet or more. The wind picked up the dry soil that had nothing to hold it down. The primary impact area of the Dust Bowl, as it came to be known, was on the Southern Plains. But the U.S. History site reveals though the Northern Plains weren't so badly affected; the drought, dust, and agricultural decline were still felt there as well. The agricultural devastation lengthened the Great Depression, with effects felt worldwide.
Tracking changing temperatures
NASA has been tracking temperatures around the globe since 1880, via a heat indicating surface map. Officials with the agency call it the beginning of “modern record” and point out an acceleration of temperatures in the late 1970's-- as greenhouse gas emissions from energy production increased worldwide, and clean air laws reduced emissions of pollutants that had a cooling effect on the climate, masking some of the global warming signals.
View an amazing 100 year's worth of data in less than 30 seconds, from NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies via its global surface temperatures map, by clicking on this link: www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features.
Much of the attention to high temperatures and drought conditions in the past year, focused on Texas. One law professor, monitoring the situation noted the Lonestar State is the only one functioning via the rule of water capture, which allows landowners to pump almost unlimited amounts of water for their crops. University of Arizona's Robert Glennon indicates a number of states, including Colorado, Arizona and Idaho-- restrict the amount of water pumped. But in Texas, penalties for pumping excess water on crops are being delayed until 2014, with officials still hoping some will self-enforce.
The topic was part of a story featured on the Science Societies websites in conjunction with World Water Day in March, 2012. Read the feature, here: www.crops.org/story/2012/mar/thu/fighting-for-water-ownership-use-on-crops-factors-for-the-future-from-cssas-presi.
Unfortunately, the problem of a lack of water hasn't diminished, and was recently the main topic at a meeting of theTexas Conservation Association. Watch the slideshow, here: www.slideshare.net/texasnetwork/2012-0615-mace-twca-drought.
A grand challenge to guide the future
Water and rainfall is still key to crop growth. Crop Science Society of America (CSSA) President Jeff Volenec calls the hot, dry weather a challenge, putting the issue near the top of a list of "Grand Challenges" targeted by CSSA and published in the recent Crop Science Journal. Volenec, a Purdue University Professor of Agronomy says, "As we look to the future, climate change is predicted to alter spatial patterns, intensities and seasonal distributions of rainfall. It also will alter temperatures and humidity; all of which can impact crop growth and yield. It is why understanding the factors driving climate change, and finding ways to mitigate these changes while simultaneously improving crop adaptation to climate change, represents one of the “Grand Challenges” targeted as a mission of CSSA and agribusiness in general."
Read the list of Grand Challenges for Crop Science, including Crop Adaptation to Climate Change on page 6, as published in part, in CSA News, here: www.crops.org/files/publications/csa-news/grand-challenges-for-crop-science.pdf.
Meanwhile, all eyes are on the conditions impacting the current corn crop. It is one of the most valuable of U.S. crops with global demand expanding for 16 straight years to reach a record 865.5 million tons in the 12 months ending October 1, 2012, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data. And the Department of Ag's number also show world inventories on October 1, 2011, were equal to about 15 percent of consumption-- the lowest ratio since 1974, with U.S. yields failing to keep up, slowing to annual gains of 1.8 percent since 1996-- from 4.3 percent in the four decades up to 1970.
And economists suggest the rising price of corn will quickly ripple across a wide range of other areas: for a beef producer, rising corn prices mean higher costs to feed their livestock; to other crop farmers, it may mean making an expensive shift to corn production to boost the available crop; while to consumers, food prices will increase putting a pinch on spending. Supermarket Guru Editor Phil Lempert says, "We will continue to see food prices rise based on environmental conditions as well as offsetting higher production costs. The costs of fuel, feed, packaging, and food safety coupled with a higher demand for export will factor into the price on the shelf." And while he's calling it a game-changing time in the food world, others may be considering it a game-changing time for crops, soil, and the environment.