Farmers, ranchers mitigate impacts of drought with good planning

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USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service is helping to mitigate impacts of drought across the nation. With good drought plans and conservation systems, farmers and ranchers are better equipped to manage dry and other extreme weather.

“Without a plan in place, you’re left crossing your fingers for rain. Farmers and ranchers may suffer some loss, but their loss is greatly minimized,” NRCS National Agronomist Norm Widman said.

Before extreme weather occurs – be it drought, flood, hot, cold – farmers and ranchers should consider what they could be doing to buffer or mitigate the effects, he added.

The NRCS hydrologists are predicting continued drought for the western part of the nation and other states may also be facing dry conditions. However, even if your area is not affected by drought, it is still important to have a plan.

“We want farmers and ranchers prepared at all times. Drought planning shouldn’t start in crisis. It should start with a plan and long-term grazing management,” NRCS Natural Resources Specialist Dana Larsen said.

Below are few drought tips from NRCS experts:

Cropland:
1. Minimize tillage as much as possible – no tillage is best
2. Keep soil covered
3. Consider killing cover crops off a couple weeks before planting
4. For crops that take supplemental nitrogen – scale back nitrogen to expected yield
5. If rain isn’t expected, inject fertilizer so it comes into contact with more soil moisture

Rangeland:
1. Have a drought plan in place and follow it
2. Don’t overgraze
3. Find alternative feeds and forages
4. Improve water resources
5. Cull herds

“The farmers and ranchers who are most resilient to drought are those who plan for it – providing them with more options and more flexibility during extreme weather,” Larsen said.

When creating a drought plan, you should consider the kinds and conditions of all your resources, and consider how crops, forage and other resources have reacted to drought in the past.

“Planning for extreme weather is essential for farmers and ranchers and NRCS is here to help. We provide the technical and financial assistance to develop healthy soils which mitigate extreme weather effects,” Widman said.

NRCS provides information on land, water and crop management options for drought plans.


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