The combines have slowed down in our part of the state, almost finished with harvest. More acres were planted this year to row crops across the country, but almost all farmers have been extremely disappointed with the outcome.
Yet, in the face of adversity, autumn still came around, and Mother Nature showed her fall colors in grand display, although most of the summer has been drab brown, black and gray. One Sunday recently, I grabbed my camera and walked around the farmstead, taking photos of all the most familiar spots that I walk by every day without noticing. Being disappointed this season, I needed a lift, and taking aim at fall colors around the farm was just what the doctor ordered.
What do we take home from this past year, emotionally and from a business standpoint?
Well, the veteran farmers I know would say that it depends on how you look at it. We can despair, fretting all winter long that the summer that wouldn’t quit will repeat itself in the most extreme terms. I’ve already heard many farmers engaging in this pastime. While climatologists tell us that this is highly unlikely, our human nature always gravitates to the path of least resistance, feeling that our current conditions will never end.
That’s why some of us, myself included, were caught flat-footed in the grip of this drought. We had experienced so many good crop years and years when our pastures were fantastic, that we were lulled into believing that it would never change. We felt it would just continue on that path forever.
But the past should have told us that things change all the time, particularly when we are talking about weather and crops. In Nebraska, there is no average precipitation or temperature. We just get our average by splitting the extremes that are reality.
Certainly, we could have another drought next season. It could be worse than this year. Yet, in my lifetime, I can recall our weather following a drier or wetter pattern through a series of years, but seldom giving us the same extreme punch two years in a row. As we plan for next season, we probably should look at making three plans for our crops and livestock.
What do we do if it doesn’t rain at all or if this extreme drought persists through another growing season? That’s one plan that most of us do not want to face, but should be our first line of business.
A second plan can be made if the snow and rains come, regenerating the soil moisture profile, and offering a better chance at a more normal growing season next year. The third, and perhaps most likely scenario that we can plan for would include a drier than normal growing season, but not as bad as this year. This scenario might include some moisture recharge through the late fall, winter and early spring months leading up to planting next May, and some rainfall through the summer, but a little less than normal.
Planning for those three scenarios will help us prepare ourselves, no matter what happens. We probably should make such plans every season, because we really never know what will happen. In the meantime, if harvest is finished in your neck of the woods, take a day and go fishing with the kids, enjoy fall colors, plan for hunting season and do something you enjoy. Certainly, after this past summer, you’ve earned yourself a little time to reflect and rejuvenate.
Be sure to watch www.nebraskafarmer.com and read our October print issue of Nebraska Farmer for news, information and tips on meeting the challenges of drought. Your best online resource for drought information is the Farm Progress drought site at www.DatelineDrought.com.