Severe Drought is a Reality Nursery Growers Must Face
The first day of summer is just over a week old as of this posting, yet many people from across the country are already beginning to question the real possibility of a severe drought in their region due to extreme temperatures early in the season.
According to NASA’s website, half of the United States is already experiencing some level of drought, and it’s expected to get worse in the upcoming months. How much worse? Consider this.
A CBS News report recently stated that in the past 20 years, exceptional drought has never covered more than 11% of the country. Right now, we’re sitting at a staggering 27%.
None of this is good news for nursery growers.
According to an article from the NC State Extension entitled Managing Drought on Nursery Crops, by Anthony LeBude (a Nursery Crops Extension Specialist and Associate Professor of Horticultural Science) and Ted Bilderback (Director, JC Raulston Arboretum and Cooperative Extension Nursery Specialist of Horticultural Science):
“Drought has always caused nursery crop producers great concern. If irrigation water becomes limiting, growers producing nursery crops in containers may lose their entire crop. Newly planted field-grown crops also sustain heavy losses if they are not irrigated frequently during the first year of production.”
They go on to say that established crops will also struggle during times of severe drought and environmental duress. “Although established field-grown nursery stock will survive if not irrigated during periods of drought, they will not grow under these conditions. Adequate moisture during field production will produce field-grown shade trees of marketable size in three to five years. Poorly irrigated plants will take longer to reach marketable size, thus lengthening the time cost of production.”
As agricultural and livestock producers have learned to do over the years, adaptability is key during times of drought and must become a regular part of the conversation as climate change continues to alter the realities of growing.
“Planning before a drought is the best way to avoid losses as well as increase efficiency and profits,” says LeBude and Bilderback. “Discuss drought management plans with your staff and your local county extension agents. Deciding on action plans for use during a drought is sometimes best done when there is no drought or immediate stress on the one making the decisions.”
Some things to consider when planning for severe drought include:
- Low-pressure/low-volume irrigation systems,
- Pot-in-pot production,
- Cycled irrigation,
- A selection of plants that can tolerate less frequent irrigation,
- The water content of substrates,
- Grouping of plants for efficient irrigation.
LeBude and Bilderback conclude that the “Best Management Practices regarding irrigation sources, filtration, container growing media, and irrigation distribution should become part of daily nursery crop production.”
For information on tracking drought conditions in your region, click here.
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