NRCS offers science, conservation action to areas facing drought

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The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service water and climate and other experts are predicting drought conditions in the West and places across the nation, marking a possible two-year drought in many states.

Faced with limited water resources, farmers and ranchers are turning to the NRCS for expert advice and assistance to conserve water.

“Our agency is the agency that takes scientific research and puts it into action for the benefit of landowners, producers and the American public,” said NRCS Deputy Chief for Science and Technology, Dr. Wayne Honeycutt.

More water can’t simply be created, but conservation practices help soil improve water storage and use, which provides the best defense against drought, he added.

Honeycutt is no stranger to farming and soil. After helping his dad on their Kentucky farm, he spent 24 years researching soils for the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. Today, he ensures NRCS has the most up-to-date and scientifically based practices for getting conservation on the ground. 

Cover crops, no-tillage, crop residue management and crop rotation are a few conservation practices that can mitigate impacts of drought. By not disturbing the soil, no-till farming keeps soil cooler longer reducing evaporation. It also builds up organic matter increasing the ability to hold water.

“These practices help drought but achieve so much more than that,” said Honeycutt. “They help reduce greenhouse gases and help feed a growing population because they are building healthy soil and resilience to extreme weather.”

The goal of many conservation programs offered by the NRCS is to improve the landowner’s soil health. Healthy soil is more resilient to erosion and better able to store water through extended drought periods – which lead to a more durable operation.

“NRCS is putting science to work when it comes to conservation of our resources – be it soil, plants, animals, water, air, or energy,” said Honeycutt.

With the help of financial and technical assistance from NRCS, many producers in the nation were able to weather last year’s drought and some even saw an increase in yields. Here’s a story about a Texas farmer’s success using NRCS-enabled conservation practices: http://blogs.usda.gov/.

NRCS will present new drought information on a regular basis to keep everyone informed about conservation practices to weather the drought. Visit us at www.nrcs.usda.gov for Drought Mondays and explore ways to make your lands more resilient to extreme weather. Also, visit Weathering Drought:  http://go.usa.gov/22V4, your one-stop shop for NRCS drought data and program information.

Source: Ciji Taylor, NRCS public affairs specialist



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