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Midwest Soil could Take Up to Two Years to Recover from Long Drought, Says MU Researcher

Feb 13, 2013

Midwest farmers have fallen on hard times due to the drought that began in 2010. For the recovery to begin root systems will need at least sixteen inches of water over normal precipitation rates. With this year’s mild winter and spotty rainfall MU researcher, Randall Miles, contends it may take another two to three years for crops and river systems to recover.

Story by MU News Bureau

The Midwest suffered the worst drought in years last summer, and Midwest soil has been suffering from a drought since early 2010. As a result, crops have wilted and farmers have fallen on hard times. Now, a University of Missouri researcher says that it may take at least two years for crops and soil to recover. Randall Miles, associate professor of soil science at the MU School of Natural Resources, found that soil in the Midwest is dry down to as deep as 5 feet, where the roots of the crops absorb moisture and nutrients.

“I wouldn’t count on a full recovery of soil moisture any time soon,” Miles said. “Even if parts of the Midwest receive a lot of snowfall and rain this spring, it will take time for the moisture to move deeply into the soil where the driest conditions exist.”

In 2012, Miles found that some roots had to go down as much as 8 feet to extract water. Typically, 1 foot of soil holds 2 inches of water. To recharge completely, a fully depleted soil would require about 16 inches of water over normal precipitation amounts.

“The soil moisture will recharge with a hydrologic process where water moves downward from surface water and fills in the pore space found in the soil,” Miles said. “However, during the winter months it is important to remember that a foot of snowfall equals about an inch of rainfall, so the soil could take some time to recharge.” More…