Instead of just coping with the next dry spell, a new effort underway at the National Drought Mitigation Center involves preparing for it. Researchers with the center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln surveyed or interviewed more than 150 farmers and ranchers last year to ask how they prepare for periods of drought, and cope with it.
Water Resources Scientist Cody Knutson recommends having a strategy in place ahead of time. Knutson says, “You need a long-term drought plan that tells you, you know, what are you going to do over the next ten years to make your place more drought-resistant? And then what are you going to do during the year – that’s when those decisions kick in. In the fall, what decisions do I need to make, and what kinds of options do I have? Same thing in the spring and then during the summer – so you really need to think those things through a little bit.”
For cattle producers, Knutson says rotational grazing systems that let pastures rest periodically are helpful when water is in short supply. He says farmers can give their crops a better chance to thrive by using water conservation techniques and building up healthy, fertile soil.
The National Drought Mitigation center hosted drought survival workshops with producers earlier this summer. Knutson says researchers are compiling the results of the study and preparing to release a final report by September.