Rain, Rain – Please Don’t Go Away

mass mapJust in the last few weeks I have looked with dismay as my lovely green lawn slowly turned into patches of brown. A lot of the beautiful lawns I drive by seem to be suffering a similar fate, despite desperate attempts to reverse the situation with sprinklers and hoses. Unfortunately nothing can replace a good downpour that goes deep into the soil giving life to the roots of a plant. While reading about the current rainfall pattern I found the following interesting information. Drought is a temporary hazard of nature occurring from a lack of precipitation over an extended period of time. Drought differs from aridity, a permanent feature of climate restricted to regions of low rainfall. Rainfall deficiencies caused by a drought create a severe hydrologic imbalance resulting in considerable water shortages.

The beginning of a drought is typically determined by comparing the current meteorological situation to an average based on a 30-year period of record. This “operational” definition of drought allows meteorologists to analyze the frequency, severity, and duration of the aberration for any given historical period and aides in the development of response and mitigation strategies.

The wet weather of the last several months has significantly improved long-term drought conditions. But long-term drought is lingering in some areas, and short-term dry conditions have developed in others. Massachusetts has seen less rainfall than usual this month, leading to moderate drought conditions in several areas, officials said.

Though a place is not officially suffering a drought until the state declares one, the National Drought Mitigation Center rated the conditions in Essex County, most of Middlesex County, and parts of Worcester County as “D1 intensity,” the least-intense type of drought.

The center considers the rest of the state “abnormally dry.” This month, Boston has received 1.69 fewer inches of rain than normal.

In severe drought conditions, which are expected to increase with climate change, organic farms have the potential to produce high yields because of the higher water-holding capacity of organically farmed soils. Organic farmers can’t rely on synthetic fertilizer to enrich their soils so they use other methods, like mixing in compost, manure and plant debris to fertilize soil. That added organic material locks in moisture and nutrients more effectively than soil that has been conventionally farmed and contains less organic material

The environmental benefits associated with organic agriculture are less contentious than the issue of yield. Studies have shown that organic agriculture, by trading synthetic fertilizers for a deeper dependence on crop management and organic materials, leads to healthier soils that store more carbon, retain more water and nutrients, and lead to less nutrient runoff and water pollution. Poor soil can decrease crop yields, meaning that conventional agriculture, if it damages the soil, could ultimately be less productive in the long-run than organic,

Overall, organic farms tend to store more soil carbon, have better soil quality, and reduce soil erosion. Organic agriculture also creates less soil and water pollution and lower greenhouse gas emissions. And it is more energy efficient because it doesn’t rely on synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. It is also associated with greater biodiversity of plants, animals, insects and microbes as well as genetic diversity. Biodiversity increases the services that nature provides like pollination and improves the ability of farming systems to adapt to changing conditions.

By Hazel Bacigalupo

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