21st Century farming prevents dust

GARDEN CITY, Kansas – Since the days of the dust bowl farmers in the Midwest have changed the way they treat one of their most important assets, the soil.

“Anything we can do to keep this soil protected is beneficial,” said Agriculture expert John Jenkinson.  “The worst thing we can have is to lose the valuable topsoil, because that’s what makes us our money.”

With drought conditions and strong winds the soil gets swept away, and that causes dust storms, and farmers can’t grow their crops.

“It’s been a real challenge here the last couple of years, so I don’t envy those farmers,” said John Holman, a Cropping Production Professor at K-State.

Farmers use the last crop as a residue to hold dirt down.  If that doesn’t work, they have to till sections of the field to bring heavier dirt to the top.  The process saves the field for the next year, but it can destroy whatever they had left to harvest.

“It’s tough to sit there and know that you’re about to wipe out half, or three-quarters, of next year’s paycheck,” Jenkinson said.

Jenkinson said there’d still be issues of dust without farm production on Kansas land.  “The land would still be here and there would still be wind erosion,” he said.  “In fact, agriculture is doing everything it can to sustain and maintain this from happening.”

Still, farmers can only do so much with so little rain, and some have predicted the drought to last another three to five years.

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