|Texas rancher Ron Gill puts out cottonseed|
feed for cattle bred for heat. (AP photo)
"The single largest limitation for agriculture worldwide is drought," said Andrew Wood, a professor of plant physiology and molecular biology at Southern Illinois University. Kansas farmer Clay Scott is testing a new kind of corn called Droughtguard as his region suffers through a second consecutive growing season with painfully scarce precipitation.
The urgency also is evident in Texas, where rainfall has been below normal since 1996. Crops and pastures were decimated in 2011 by a searing drought, and some got hit again this year. Ranchers have sold off many animals they couldn’t graze or afford to feed. Cattle inventory, at 97.8 million head as of July 1, is the smallest since the U.S. Department of Agriculture began a July count in 1973. At least one rancher is now breeding cattle with genes that trace to animals from Africa and India, where their ancestors developed natural tolerance to heat and drought. (Read more)