Experts soothe 'Dust Bowl' fears as drought conditions continue

Published: Mar. 31, 2014 at 8:57 PM CDT
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Historical photo provided by NOAA
Historical photo provided by NOAA
Historical photo provided by NOAA
Historical photo provided by NOAA

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Lack of rain has many South Plains residents worried about another dust bowl, but experts say there's no chance.

"When we talk about a recurrence of the dust bowl, the technology and the tools today are so far superior to what we had 80 years ago during the dust bowl that I don't really see that recurring," said Swisher County farmer Barry Evans.

He is one of many area farmers working to practice sustainable farming techniques.

"We do that largely by leaving a lot more of the previous crop residue on the ground. It helps build your organic matter up in the soil. When we do get a rain, we capture that in the soil instead of plowing it out and losing it like we would have done 50 years ago," he said. "The other thing we do is with our irrigation water. We've increased our efficiency on our sprinklers and drip systems and we achieve 95 percent efficiency on what we apply."

But although a dust bowl isn't likely, Mark Brown, M. S. with the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension says the outlook for the South Plains isn't good.

"Most long term climatologists say that in this area of the state we're in for continued below-normal rainfall at least for the next 90 days. That's of concern to people in agriculture because over the next 90 days is the critical part of our growing season - from planting on through peak water demand," he said, "Hopefully we'll get some timely rainfall throughout this season. Even if it's below normal if it's timely that's the important thing."

He says once the weather becomes dry and windy there's not much farmers can do to stop dust from entering the air.

"Once it gets so dry then there's not a lot that the producers can do in the absence of irrigation capability to prevent the topsoil from blowing whenever we get high winds and we get dust movement occurring," he said.

"Fortunately here in the South Plains and the Panhandle area we rely primarily on ground water both for agriculture as well as for drinking water, so we don't feel that there's any chance of us running out of water in this area at this time..."

Brown thinks it will rain eventually, he just hopes it happens sooner rather than later.

"We do know that it will break one of those days. It will rain again out here, we just don't know exactly when that will happen," he said. "There's no doubt that we're already in a serious situation, especially when it comes to the level of a lot of our reservoirs across the state."

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