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Drought rivals Dust Bowl years

Last year's drought in the southern U.S. rivaled the dry spells of the Dust Bowl years.
by Ken Raymond Published: April 10, 2012

The Dust Bowl is over, but conditions are dangerously similar today.

That's the word from The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation of Ardmore, which is cautioning farmers to be careful with their pastures.

According to a Foundation news release:

Last year's drought “rivaled the ... dry spells of the mid-1950s and even the Dust Bowl period. Agricultural producers across the southern portion of the United States — 14 states in all — experienced varying degrees of drought conditions with Oklahoma and Texas receiving the brunt of the heat and lack of precipitation.”

Drought conditions are predicted to persist through May.

The heat and dryness “severely damaged” many pastures and weakened the roots of forage plants, the grasses and legumes consumed by livestock. Growers should reduce stocking rates to allow forage plants to recover.

Growing conditions improved somewhat in the fall, with potential consequences. Cool-season annual grasses, such as ryegrass, took over pastures normally dominated by warm-season grasses. Cool-season grasses can provide excellent forage but should be removed by mid-May to allow warm-season grasses to grow. Otherwise, drought recovery will be slowed.

Weakened pastures also foster increased weed growth. If weeds aren't controlled, they will weaken forage production, further loosening the soil.

by Ken Raymond
Book Editor
Ken Raymond is the book editor. He joined The Oklahoman in 1999. He has won dozens of state, regional and national writing awards. Three times he has been named the state's "overall best" writer by the Society of Professional Journalists. In...
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