Issues of concern to people who live in the west: property rights, water rights, endangered species, livestock grazing, energy production, wilderness and western agriculture. Plus a few items on western history, western literature and the sport of rodeo... Frank DuBois served as the NM Secretary of Agriculture from 1988 to 2003. DuBois is a former legislative assistant to a U.S. Senator, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Interior, and is the founder of the DuBois Rodeo Scholarship.
Thursday, August 09, 2012
Adapting agriculture for climate change
Cattle are being bred with genes from their African cousins who are accustomed to hot weather. New corn varieties are emerging with larger roots for gathering water in a drought. Someday, the plants may even be able to "resurrect" themselves after a long dry spell, recovering quickly when rain returns. Across American agriculture, farmers and crop scientists have concluded that it's too late to fight climate change. They need to adapt to it with a new generation of hardier animals and plants specially engineered to survive, and even thrive, in intense heat, with little rain. On his Kansas farm, Clay Scott is testing a new kind of corn called Droughtguard as his region suffers through a second consecutive growing season with painfully scarce precipitation. "These are products I really need," Scott said. "I couldn't be any happier that they are working on these products." At least one rancher is now breeding cattle with genes that trace to animals from Africa and India, where their ancestors developed natural tolerance to heat and drought. Ron Gill, a rancher who also heads the animal science department at Texas A&M University, said research has been under way for years to develop cattle that can withstand heat and grow on lower-quality forage. Last year, he started incorporating into his herd Beefmaster cattle, a cross between Brahman cattle, which originated in India, and European breeds that include Herefords and Shorthorns. He's also experimenting with the appropriately named Hotlanders, a Texas breed developed for its heat tolerance using genetics from Senepol cows bred in the Virgin Islands. As ranchers replenish their livestock, the advice from experts is to breed drought tolerance into herds. It's no different for farmers in the nation's Corn Belt, who are confronting a drought that stretches from Ohio west to California and from Texas north to the Dakotas. Only in the 1930s and the 1950s has a drought covered more of the US, according to the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, North Carolina. ..more