A dry year and a new drought in the western United States has caused millions of acres of crops to wither.
And while farmers in the Colorado Rockies are struggling to recover from their worst drought since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, others are in the midst of rebuilding.
Here’s what you need to know:How do I know if my crops are going to die?
The first signs of the worst drought are usually seen when farmers see a white cloud on the horizon.
In many cases, it’s because their fields are drying up.
But in the case of this particular drought, a little rain has trickled in from the Colorado River Valley, which supplies much of the state’s water.
“The next thing we see is this big, yellow cloud over the valley and that’s when we know we’re in trouble,” said Mark DeWitt, an agronomist for the University of Colorado Cooperative Extension.
“It’s not a very good sign to tell a farmer, ‘We’re not getting any rain this year,’ and he immediately starts to see the damage.”
The damage to crops can range from a slow-growing crop to a crop that’s nearly gone.
“There’s a lot of dead leaves, and it’s just the canopy is dying off,” DeWittle said.
“The soil is being cut up.”
If the soil is dry, it can hold water better than the crop, and that makes it easier for moisture to seep into the soil.
But as the soil dries out, moisture levels drop, so the crop dies.
That leaves the crop susceptible to pests.
The effects can be devastating.
The drought has caused farmers in Colorado Springs to start planting corn and wheat in a way that can reduce the likelihood of crop damage.
That means the fields that were once lush will become sandy.
The damage can also be a problem in other parts of the western U.S.
DeWitt said this year’s drought was the worst since the 1950s.
“There are some areas where we’re seeing this pattern where the soil hasn’t even dried out,” he said.
In other words, the soil isn’t as good as it was in the 1930’s.
But there’s a big difference between the 1950’s and the present day.
“This is one of those times when we’re not even seeing it,” DeHitt said.
The drought in Colorado is the second drought in as many years.
In 2016, farmers in New York saw the biggest drought in nearly a century, according to the U.N. Environment Program.
That year, farmers were unable to recover after the massive flooding from Hurricane Sandy.
The biggest threat to Colorado’s crops is climate change.
“If it gets hotter, it will make it more likely for drought to hit us,” said Robert Smith, a crop insurance agent for the Rocky Mountain Sugar Refining Co. “We’ve had some drought in our state before.
It’s happened before.
There’s a drought now.
The next one could be a year of drought.”
The Colorado drought is not the first drought to strike Colorado.
A dry winter last year in the late 1800s and early 1900s sent the state to a severe drought.
The effects of the drought have been felt in the state and beyond, as the National Weather Service has warned of “potentially significant damage.”
The U.P.S., a nonprofit that works to preserve the environment and the economy, estimates that Colorado lost between $20 million and $40 million in agricultural and mineral revenues in 2017 alone due to the drought.
The impact on the state has been significant, too.
In 2018, the U of L’s Agriculture Department estimated that Colorado was expected to lose about $1.8 billion in revenues due to crop loss.
The impacts of drought are particularly devastating for the Great Plains.
The region has long been dependent on the Colorado river for water.
But that reliance has been undermined by the climate change caused by human activities like burning fossil fuels and building up greenhouse gas emissions.
The water is not available, which has made the Great Lakes basin vulnerable to flooding.
A recent study by the UofL’s Institute of Watershed Sciences estimated that flooding in the Great Basin could affect more than 2 million acres of farmland.
The area in the basin is home to about 10 percent of the nation’s corn, soybean, cotton and other crop production, the University says.
“A lot of that production is coming from Colorado and other parts,” said James Rader, a University of New Mexico water resource specialist.
“This drought has affected Colorado and the Great Lake Basin and has already impacted the Great Salt Lake Basin, which is the most important water source in the world.”