How to Combat a Drought As a Farmer

Droughts do a number on agriculture that affect people worldwide. The effects of droughts on the agricultural sector include a significant decline in crops and livestock and high costs associated with accessing water for irrigation and watering livestock. We feel the impact of droughts economically and socially as they threaten farmers' livelihoods and the population's food security. Understanding how to combat a drought as a farmer is essential, especially considering that droughts are becoming more frequent and extreme.

Thankfully, with drought resilience strategies, including water management, soil conservation and using the best tools, equipment and services, farmers and agricultural organizations can work together to conquer dry spells.

Understanding Droughts and Their Impact on Agriculture

Droughts are extended periods of extremely dry weather when it doesn't rain enough. Despite this simple explanation, defining droughts is more complex. What a drought looks like varies from region to region based on the average precipitation an area usually receives. A perfect example of this is deserts that receive very little rainfall throughout the year — extended periods of dry weather are more normal in these regions.

Droughts are complex weather phenomena that can occur due to several atmospheric, geographical and oceanic factors. Things that can contribute to droughts include:

  • Climate change
  • Changes in jet streams
  • Warming ocean temperatures

When meteorologists analyze droughts, they usually fall within these main categories:

  • Meteorological: This is when regions experience less rain or snowfall than usual.
  • Hydrological: Meteorological drought may lead to hydrological drought when water sources like lakes dry up.
  • Socioeconomic: Socioeconomic droughts are when humans experience water shortages due to hydrological droughts.
  • Agricultural: Hydrological droughts may also lead to agricultural droughts, affecting soil water deficits, as well as groundwater and reservoir levels farmers need for irrigation.
  • Ecological: Droughts can become so severe that they damage local plant and animal communities.

Altered weather patterns and global warming are large drivers for droughts becoming more severe and frequent, leading to more agricultural and ecological droughts.

The Economic Impact of Droughts on Agricultural Operations

The layman can sometimes underestimate the impact of droughts as the full effects develop gradually. Droughts are one of the most devastating natural disasters because — unlike floods, hurricanes or earthquakes — they can last for weeks, years and even decades. The length and severity of droughts leave a significant mark on agricultural operations that can affect the economy.

Droughts can:

  • Damage and kill crops, which leads to a lack of income for farmers.
  • Lead to crop losses that affect consumers who experience food shortages and associated price hikes.
  • Cause ranchers to sell off or slaughter more animals, leading to a small decrease in the price of livestock, meat and produce, followed by price hikes as drought persists.
  • Increase the price of accessing water and producing feed for crops and animals.

Drought Resilience Strategies in Agriculture

Farmers and agricultural organizations and services can work together to create and implement drought resilience strategies focusing on soil health and conservation as well as water management.

Water Management in Agriculture: Enhancing Irrigation Efficiency

Agricultural irrigation accounts for approximately 70% of the world's freshwater withdrawals, optimizing irrigation systems with smart technology would make a meaningful difference in your water conservation efforts as a farmer.

Smart irrigation systems can help farmers save and manage water more efficiently by employing technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and AI to increase yields by monitoring water resources, controlling water usage, reducing water waste and saving on operational costs. Smart irrigation systems with remote sensors help farmers save water by:

  • Gathering water usage data in real-time so that farmers can track trends and make forecasts according to changing conditions.
  • Controlling water flow.
  • Detecting water leaks or faulty pipelines to reduce water waste.
  • Tracking environmental factors like rainfall, temperature and humidity.
  • Measuring soil moisture levels so farmers can optimize water resources for crops and activate water systems if levels are low.

Investing in Drought-Resistant Crops

Drought-resistant crops are species that require very little water to thrive. These crops include the likes of figs, grapes, mustard greens, okra, goji berries, persimmon, swiss chard and rhubarb. Investing in these crops is a sustainable option as you can keep producing these crops and bringing in income, even in drier conditions. Drought-resistant crops can also help ensure food security when water levels are low.

An effective way of investing in drought-resistant crops is crop rotation — planting different species of crops each season and choosing crops that would replenish the soil's nutrients from the previous harvest.

Adopting Sustainable Farming Practices

The primary goal of sustainable farming practices is to conserve resources by reducing any kind of waste. Sustainable farming can include using renewable energy sources to minimize pollution and carbon footprint, choosing natural pest control options, biodynamic farming that mimics natural ecosystems, reduced tillage methods, using the right fertilizer spreading strategies to optimize crops according to their type and planting trees and shrubs among crops.

Farmers can also look for ways to reuse and recycle water for agricultural activities. You may save and treat the water you use on your farm to further aid crop production or water livestock. If you choose to reuse water, you must follow state regulations and guidelines to ensure you meet health and safety standards.

Sustainable farming practices can help you tackle some of the challenges of a drought, but it is wise and advantageous to implement them regardless of conditions. The benefits of sustainable farming include conserving water, promoting diversity, increasing economic opportunities within the agricultural sector, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting healthy soil.

The Role of Agricultural Organizations and Services

One of the most tried and tested ways of getting through challenges like droughts is collaboration. Several agricultural organizations and services are at your disposal should you need guidance, information, support and resources or assistance with drought management. Organizations and government entities like the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provide resources that equip farmers with the knowledge and skills to combat droughts and practice sustainable farming.

Cultivating Resilient Farming Practices With Pequea

As a farmer, understanding the challenges you may face with droughts is imperative for adapting and optimizing your operations. At Pequea, we believe in empowering farmers with knowledge, support and a premium selection of agricultural equipment that can help optimize your operations.

We are a top-rated agricultural equipment company that provides innovative agricultural products, including hay tedders and forage equipment, hay rake farm equipment, fertilizer spreaders, vertical and horizontal beater spreaders, bale wrappers and wood chippers. At Pequea, we understand the importance of choosing the right tools and equipment in drought conditions. Browse our selection of agricultural equipment or feel free to reach out to us by visiting a dealer near you.