Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Plains Likely To See Drought This Summer

The weather forecasters at Accuweather are predicting a drought for the Midwest plains this summer, although the state's climatologist, Mary Knapp says its a little early to compare the last four years of dry summers to the Dust Bowl drought of the 1930's. Are the farmers worried about the lack of rainfall? Seems they are more concerned about high fertilizer prices.
Bill Wood, Douglas County’s agriculture agent for K-State Research and Extension, said the lack of moisture in the soil was causing local farmers to brace themselves for the possibility of poor crop yields.

“Right now, it’s looking kind of scary,” he said.

The forecast comes as a research group headquartered at Kansas University is preparing to launch a $9.25 million project aimed at predicting large-scale environmental changes such as the Dust Bowl. The grant, announced Monday, will link researchers at KU, Kansas State University and Fort Hays State University in a study of environmental changes along the Kansas River basin.

“If we would have had this grant with the equipment and the computational power … before the Dust Bowl, we would have been able to predict that the Dust Bowl was coming,” said Leonard Krishtalka, director of the KU Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Research Center, the lead researcher on the project.

The three-year grant was awarded to the Kansas NSF Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. It comprises $6.75 millionfrom the National Science Foundation and $2.5 million from the Kansas Technology Enterprise Corp. Owner Steve Wilson has recently heard a few customers make reference to the Dust Bowl days. But overall, it’s not the greatest topic of concern.

“They’re probably still more concerned with high fertilizer prices,” he said.

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