drought conditions over the years

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Water Management During Drought

Water management is vital to society and ecosystems and affects many industries that heavily depended on adequate water resources like agriculture and recreation. Improper management has both economic and environmental impacts.

Many areas in the United States face recurring water shortages. Two years after being in an adequate rainfall situation, California is now back in a water deficit/drought environment.  Other areas in the United States are experiencing drought as well at this moment. 

Map showing the areas in the USA that are in various levels of drought.
In May 2019, most regions in the USA did not manifest any drought. The difference in drought levels is huge when compared to the data above from May 2021. More than 50% of the USA is experiencing a variety of drought levels. Only the white colored areas are not experiencing drought.
In May 2019, most regions in the USA did not manifest any drought. The difference in drought levels is huge when compared to the data above from May 2021. More than 50% of the USA is experiencing a variety of drought levels. Only the white colored areas are not experiencing drought.

Data from the Drought Monitor website shows all regions in the United States are experiencing larger areas of abnormally dry or more severe drought now compared to a year ago. And most of these areas will be experiencing long and short-term impacts. The short-term impact has a direct effect on agriculture as well as urban and suburban areas.

All of California is experiencing moderate to severe drought levels in May 2021.
All of California is experiencing moderate to exceptional drought levels in May 2021.

With climate change, the weather is much more unpredictable in many areas during the year, and temporary droughts can happen anywhere. When looking at the High Plains area, more than 50% is in at least a moderate drought situation, compared to 20% last year at this time.

The High Plains is experiencing several drought levels from dry to extreme drought levels in May 2021.
The High Plains is experiencing several drought levels from dry to exceptional drought levels in May 2021.

Although the drought situation varies locally, every region in the USA is experiencing more drought conditions than last year.

As a response to the increasing lack of water, there has been a strong focus on improving water management in general. Good water management is essential for crops, specifically as yield can be severely impacted without the right amount of water.

The Midwest is experiencing abnormally dry to moderate drought situations in more than 30% of the region.
The Midwest is experiencing abnormally dry to moderate drought situations in more than 30% of the region.

Water use efficiency can be achieved by using more efficient irrigation methods such as drip and sub-surface drip irrigation.  Those effective systems can be further enhanced using soil moisture sensors that optimize irrigation scheduling and water management products like soil surfactants and moisture-holding polymers. 

More than 30% of the South is experiencing some level of drought in May 2021.
More than 30% of the South is experiencing some level of drought in May 2021.

How can soil moisture amendments and wetting agents help?

A lack of soil moisture results in a lack of plant-available water. Without adequate water, plants are unable to grow and produce the desired yield. Plants can recover from short periods of water stress, but prolonged water stress periods can negatively impact the outcome and result in crop death in extreme cases.

When soils dry, they can become more difficult to wet and develop hydrophobicity in some cases. If this happens, cracks can form, resulting in a preferential flow of irrigation water below the root zone of the actively growing crop. This results in a decrease in irrigation efficiency and makes it more difficult to wet the soil evenly. When hydrophobic organic coatings surround soil particles, those areas become non-wetting. Subsequent irrigation events will fail to wet these hydrophobic areas, while other zones will receive excess moisture. The result is greater variability in soil moisture, with some areas being too wet and the different zones being too dry.

Soil amendments, specifically soil surfactants, are helpful tools to improve irrigation efficiency and overcome the challenges associated with drought conditions. These products fall into two categories: those designed to treat hydrophobicity and those designed to affect soil water-holding capacity.

Wetting agents that treat hydrophobicity bind with the organic coating that forms on soil particles, resulting in better water infiltration through these hydrophobic zones. Ultimately, this results in better soil moisture uniformity across the field because irrigation will infiltrate more evenly.

Soil amendments that affect water-holding capacity help improve soil aggregate stability, the connectivity of soil pores, and the soil’s inherent ability to store water. By physically altering these properties of the ground, these products can improve irrigation efficiency, lower the irrigation requirement for a given soil, or extend the interval between irrigation events.

Exacto, Inc. has worked extensively to develop soil water management solutions. The patented product AquiMax® combines soil surfactant with a unique water-holding polymer.  Using AquiMax as part of an irrigation management plan helps achieve maximum crop yields while optimizing water use efficiency.  It can be conveniently used in standard irrigation systems with planned irrigation events and has been proven to reduce water usage and even increase yield. It is also very effective in managing turf, the largest irrigated crop in the USA.

What’s next?

Over the last 40 years, Exacto has developed innovative technologies and a wealth of knowledge to help optimize the use of natural resources for agriculture, turf and ornamental and industrial vegetation management markets. There is not one single technology or product that will provide the solution for current drought situations or the changing climate. But when innovative equipment, practical products, increased insights through data analytics come together with the empowerment of all involved, more informed decisions can be made to manage and optimize the outcome.

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