Farmers restore native grasslands as groundwater disappears

Agriculture

Biologist Jude Smith looks over native grasses at the Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge outside Muleshoe, Texas, on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is encouraging farmers in a “Dust Bowl zone” that includes parts of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado to preserve and establish grasslands, which can survive drought and prevent wind erosion. (AP Photo/Mark Rogers

MULESHOE, Texas (AP) — To avoid Dust Bowl conditions, more farmers are restoring native grasslands in areas where the nation’s largest aquifer is drying up and rainfall is often scarce.

Groundwater from the Ogallala aquifer has sustained farming for generations in the Plains states, even through droughts. But it’s becoming increasingly difficult to grow crops that require irrigation.

A recent study projects that more than half of currently irrigated land in portions of Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma could be lost by the end of the century. And the U.S. Department of Agriculture has identified a Dust Bowl zone where grasslands conservation is a priority.

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