The 2012 growing season presented challenges for crop irrigation and recreation in ways rarely seen. Parts of Cass, St. Joseph, Branch and Hillsdale counties reached the U.S. Drought Monitor's
Extreme Drought (D3) rating in late July, historic drought levels that prompted such measures as opening of Conservation Reserve Program
acreage for emergency haying under certain conditions and time constraints to potentially ease deficits in forage supply. Conflicts emerged in many drought-stricken communities in southern Michigan based on differing opinions about why surface waters declined. Some pointed to crop irrigation withdrawals while others sited evapotranspiration as being a greater contributor after record-breaking March temperatures and summer heat waves coupled with reduced rainfall. Also, while rainfall levels increased by late summer and into early fall, precipitation levels this winter are being watched closely with high hopes that surface waters will return to normal levels and that soil profiles have adequate moisture for the upcoming growing season.
Michigan is certainly not alone in dealing with water challenges in agriculture this year. Much of the Midwest is still in the grip of drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. More than 88% of Wisconsin remains rated in some sort of drought status as of Feb. 12, compared to 40% of Michigan land area. The far western areas of the Corn Belt are far more drought-stricken states like Michigan and Wisconsin, though some much needed recent snowfall may provide relief to parched areas of Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa.
Consider joining MSU Extension on this exciting tour to learn more about water and agriculture, water conservation practices, and to meet leaders in irrigated crop production. See further details including online registration. For questions, contact Jon Zirkle in the St. Joseph County MSU Extension office at 269-467-5510.
For more information, visit www.msue.msu.edu
. To contact an expert in your area, visit expert.msue.msu.edu
, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).