The drought also attracted grasshoppers, which threatened to attack the flowers the Tuckers also grow. They had to buy praying mantises to get rid of them. You have to go back to 2012 to find a similar episode in the Midwest. “It’s worse” than ten years ago, says Rachel Tucker. Her husband, whose grandfather was already farming the land, says there hasn’t been such water stress since the 1930s.
Same story in Scott City, in western Kansas. Marc Ramsey, the head of a century-old family farm, reports that there has been no significant rainfall since July. “Five centimeters of rain. That’s all we got this year. »
About 30% of Marc Ramsey’s land is irrigated. These plots have done better than the rest, like the only Tucker field that benefits. But some gave only 5 tonnes of maize per hectare, whereas they usually produce more than double that.
“What is perhaps a little different from the years 2010, 2011 and 2012, believes Rex Buchanan, of the Kansas Geological Survey, is that when the rain stops, it stops completely. »
Major crops affected
The drought affected the three major crops in the United States, namely wheat, corn and soybeans, for which the Department of Agriculture had to revise downwards the national average of yield forecasts. An insurance indemnifies exceptional losses for those who are covered.
In the Midwest, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota normally concentrate one-third of American production of winter wheat and one-quarter of corn.
Since Kansas started growing corn in the 1960s and 1970s, “there has been a pretty dramatic reduction (of the aquifer) in the west” of the state, notes Rex Buchanan .
Irrigation not possible
In some areas, wells dried up and farmers had to return to dry farming, without irrigation.
Pumping rights are strictly limited and, according to the geologist, in places, farmers have agreed on a more rational use of groundwater, even if it means drawing 10% or 20% less than allowed.
But the earth could not recharge with water, as it usually does with autumn rains.
Therefore, soil moisture “will be a concern this winter and spring”, so for the next harvest, “if conditions do not change”, announces Brian Fuchs, climatologist at the National Drought Management Center , attached to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
The subject of global warming, considered very political and controversial in the United States, is often avoided.