Mapping Drought

California growers aren’t the only ones dealing with a very damaging drought this year. These interesting interactive graphics at The New York Times show just how widespread and severe the dry spell is.

“About 34 percent of the contiguous United States was in at least a moderate drought as of July 29.”

The Times also offers an historical drought timeline dating back to the 1890s.

Short-Term Employees

Might the trend of employees leaving after short work stints be a threat to agriculture? Cary Blake. editor of Western Farm Press, looks at the issue.

“At first glance, I personally don’t think decreased job spans will become much of an issue in agriculture. Then again, that’s probably the same thought that other businesses groups had when the two-week notices were slipped into employer mailboxes, just after employees' first-or-second-year company anniversary,” Blake writes.

For advice on dealing well with employees, check out these stories.

Sick Horses

Was hay the cause of a skin disease affecting horses in southern California? That’s what some horse owners are saying after their animals recently suffered sunburn, facial blisters and swelling, reports ABC 7.

“UC Davis tested the hay and it came back clean. They say it's possible this was just an anomaly that was caused by the drought.”

Growers and horse owners should also watch for blister beetle outbreaks like the one recently reported in Idaho.

Sustainability And Organic Farming

Sustainability and organic farming: Is it accurate to link those terms? Here is one take on that question in an opinion piece at CNBC.

“A fundamental reason that organic food production is far less "sustainable" than many forms of conventional farming is that organic farms, though possibly well adapted for certain local environments on a small scale, produce far less food per unit of land and water,” write Henry Miller, a physician and molecular biologist at Stanford University, and Richard Cornett, communications director for the Western Planet Health Association.

Modern-Day Dust Bowl

While parts of the Great Plains have recovered somewhat from drought, other stretches remain so dry that it brings back memories of the Dust Bowl in the 1930s. But farmers are now much better prepared to deal with the harsh conditions, reports Harvest Public Media, so the affects haven’t been as severe.

“Farms in the 1930s relied on primitive horse-drawn plows. Now, large-scale crop farmers are testing conservation practices like planting cover crops, limiting tillage and updating irrigation, with financial benefits.”

For more information on cover crops, visit “Plant The Right Cover Crops After Corn Silage,” “Fight Soil Compaction With Radish Cover Crop,” “Northeastern Producers Trend Toward Triticale Forage.”