Thursday, April 19, 2018

The 100th Meridian, Where the Great Plains Begin, May Be Shifting

Warming Climate May Be Moving Western Aridity Eastward

BY |APRIL 11, 2018
In 1878, the American geologist and explorer John Wesley Powell drew an invisible line in the dirt—a very long line. It was the 100th meridian west, the longitude he identified as the boundary between the humid eastern United States and the arid Western plains. Running south to north, the meridian cuts northward through the eastern states of Mexico, and on to Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, the Dakotas, and the Canadian province of Manitoba on its way to the pole. Powell, best known for exploring the Grand Canyon and other parts of the West, was wary of large-scale settlement in that often harsh region, and tried convincing Congress to lay out water and land-management districts crossing state lines to deal with environmental constraints. Western political leaders hated the idea—they feared this might limit development, and their own power—and it never went anywhere. It was not the first time that politicians would ignore the advice of scientists.
Now, 140 years later, scientists are looking again at the 100th meridian. In two just-published papers, they examine how it has played out in history so far, and what the future may hold. They confirm that the divide has turned out to be very real, as reflected by population and agriculture on opposite sides. They say also that the line appears to be slowly moving eastward, due to climate change. They say it will almost certainly continue shifting in coming decades, expanding the arid climate of the western plains into what we think of as the Midwest. The implications for farming and other pursuits could be huge.
The 100th meridian west (solid line) has long been considered the divide between the relatively moist eastern United States, and the more arid West. Climate change may already have started shifting the divide eastward (dotted line).
One can literally step over the meridian line on foot, but the boundary it represents is more gradual. In 1890, Powell wrote, “Passing from east to west across this belt a wonderful transformation is observed. On the east a luxuriant growth of grass is seen, and the gaudy flowers of the order Compositae make the prairie landscape beautiful. Passing westward, species after species of luxuriant grass and brilliant flowering plants disappear; the ground gradually becomes naked, with bunch grasses here and there; now and then a thorny cactus is seen, and the yucca plant thrusts out its sharp bayonets.” Today, his description would only partly apply; the “luxuriant grass” of the eastern prairie was long ago plowed under for corn, wheat and other crops, leaving only scraps of the original landscape. The scrubby growth of the thinly populated far western plains remains more intact.
“Powell talked eloquently about the 100th meridian, and this concept of a boundary line has stayed with us down to the current day,” said Richard Seager, a climate scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and lead author of the two papers.  “We wanted to ask whether there really is such a divide, and whether it’s influenced human settlement.” He calls the studies an example of “psychogeography”—the examination of how environment affects human decisions. The papers appear in the current edition of the journal Earth Interactions.
While the climate divide is not a literal line, it is about the closest thing around, easily seen on maps. Due to global-scale wind patterns, to the west of this longitude, rainfall drops off sharply. East of the line, it picks up sharply. Powell noted correctly that the western plains are dry in part because they lie in the rain shadow of the Rocky Mountains, which rake off almost all the moisture blowing in from the Pacific Ocean. Seager’s team identifies two other factors. In winter, Atlantic storms bring plenty of moisture into the eastern plains and Southeast, but don’t make it far enough to moisten the western plains. In summer, moisture from the Gulf of Mexico moves northward, but that also curves eastward, again providing the East with plenty of precipitation, while the West gets cheated. Seager says there is only one other such major straight-line climate divide on the global map: the one separating the Sahara Desert from the rest of Africa, also due to cutoffs of prevailing oceanic winds.
In the United States, the effects show up in obvious ways. To the west, population density drops sharply. There are fewer homes, commercial facilities and roads. Farms are fewer, but bigger, reflecting the economics of less water and thus lower productivity. To the east, 70 percent of the crop is moisture-loving corn; to the west, aridity-resistant wheat is dominant.
With the camera looking west, horses graze about 300 miles east of the 100th meridian. This area could become dryer if current projections of climate play out. (Kevin Krajick/Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory)
Now, the researchers say, warming climate appears to be pushing the divide east. In the northern plains, rainfall has not changed much, but temperatures are going up, increasing evaporation from the soil. Further south, concurrent shifts in wind patterns are in fact causing less rain to fall. Either way, this tends to push western aridity eastward. Data collected since about 1980 suggests that the statistical divide between humid and arid has now shifted closer to the 98th meridian, some 140 miles east. (In Texas, this would move it roughly from Abilene to Fort Worth.) Seager says year-to-year weather variations may blur the data, and in any case the changes are still too small and gradual to yet affect land use over wide areas. But he is confident that aridity will perceptibly move eastward during the 21st century, and eventually effect large-scale changes.
Seager predicts that as drying progresses, farms further and further east will have to consolidate and become larger in order to remain viable. Unless farmers turn to irrigation or otherwise adapt, they will have to turn from corn to wheat or some other more suitable crop. Large expanses of cropland may fail altogether, and have to be converted to western-style grazing range. Water supplies could become a problem for urban areas.
Some historians say it could be argued that white settlement beyond the meridian influenced everything from the end of slavery (plantations could not expand beyond the line, weakening the South) to the development of modern firearms (settlers with single-shot muskets couldn’t compete with native peoples’ rapid-fire arrow attacks, until they became the first, best customers for new Colt repeating revolvers and rifles). The meridian itself is still registered in the popular imagination by historical roadside signs, books such Wallace Stegner’s “Beyond the Hundredth Meridian”, and the Canadian rock hit “At the Hundredth Meridian.” “It’s a reminder that climate really matters, then as it does today,” said Seager.
The other authors of the study are Nathan Lis of Pennsylvania State University; Jamie Feldman of Columbia Engineering; and Mingfang Tang, Park Williams, Jennifer Nakamura, Haibo Liu and Naomi Henderson, all of Lamont-Doherty.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Videos from Miss. State small ruminant workshop available for viewing

STARKVILLE, Miss. — Mississippi State University Extension Service and Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station presented an informative management and marketing workshop on March 17. Workshop speakers include local producers and researchers from across the Southeast.

The videos of those presentation have been loaded onto the Internet and now are available for viewing at

For more information about small ruminants, visit :

For more information about forages, visit:

Monday, April 16, 2018

Ag Community Relief ready to assist wildfire ravaged Oklahoma

Lapeer MI - Ag Community Relief is assembling donations of hay and other supplies, along with volunteers, to move into Oklahoma to assist those affected by wildfires over the past few days. Northwestern Oklahoma has seen close to 400,000 acres burned since late last week with roughly 13 percent contained. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency on April 13 for 52 counties in the drought stricken region, opening up resources and funding for those areas. 

Matt Schaller is president of Ag Community Relief. The Michigan-based non-profit 501(c)3 was formed in 2017 after the wildfires in Oklahoma and Kansas, to bring relief to active farmers and ranchers that experienced devastation across the US by assembling volunteers and donations to help mitigate their suffering.

“Unfortunately, these folks are in the same boat as the people we helped last year,” said Schaller. “We’re asking that you take a look at your hay pile.  Can you spare 6-8 round bales? Things are so dry there isn’t hay to be found in that area.  We’ve been trying to find 30 bales around Ashland KS for two weeks and nobody had any idea where we could find it. They all said you could travel 200 miles and not find anyone willing to let hay go.

“The Orphan Calf Relief that so many of you supported last year is beginning to assemble once again.  Supplies needed are milk replacer, feed, small square bales, electrolytes, minerals and funds to cover vet costs/meds required. You may think what you can give isn’t enough but we’ve all seen what we can do when we come together.”

Lapeer Farm and Garden in Lapeer MI has offered to accept donations for anyone who wants to call and place an order by taking payment over the phone to send items to Oklahoma on Ag Community Relief’s volunteer-based convoy. They can be reached at (810) 664-2907. Items being asked for by ranchers in Oklahoma are:
Calf milk replacer (no soy)
Calf Bottles
Bottle holders
Bucket nipples
Milk bars
Scour guard
Bloat meds
Boluse pills
Starter feed
Fluid Feeder
"Sav a Calf"
Powdered Milk (ex: Putin's Dairy Calf 20-20)
Aloe Vera
Trucks loaded with hay and supplies will depart for Oklahoma the evening of Wednesday April 18, with others possibly in the works, according to Schaller. 

If you’re interested in donating or making the trip to Oklahoma, visit the Ag Community Relief Facebook page, or contact them at or 517-668-2676. All donations are tax deductible.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Updated Publication Explains Nutrient Cycles in Pastures

Effective management of nutrient cycling in pastures requires understanding how nature cycles nutrients in natural grasslands and then mimicking those natural processes. "Nutrient Cycling in Pastures," a newly updated ATTRA publication, examines the pathways and drivers that move nutrients into, out of, and within pasture systems.
The publication attempts to provide a clear, holistic understanding of how nutrients cycle through pastures and what the producer can do to enhance the processes to create productive, regenerative, and resilient farm and ranch systems.
You can download it for free from the ATTRA website at

ATTRA has related resources to check out as well, including:
"Soil Health" tutorial
"Building Healthy Pasture Soils,"
"Soil Health and Livestock: ATTRA Resources,"

Since 1976, the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) has been helping people by championing small-scale, local and sustainable solutions to reduce poverty, promote healthy communities and protect natural resources. More information about its programs and services is available at or by calling 1-800-ASK-NCAT.
Follow NCAT on Facebook Follow NCAT on Twitter Follow NCAT on LinkedIn
Copyright © 2018
The National Center for Appropriate Technology

NCAT Headquarters mailing address:
P.O. Box 3838
Butte, MT 59702

Please consider a donation to NCAT. Your support helps NCAT promote sustainable solutions.

Become an E-news Subscriber

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Missouri Sheep and Goat Workshop to Focus on Parasite Management

STOCKTON, Mo. - University of Missouri Extension and Lincoln University are hosting a "Sheep and Goat Workshop" focused on internal parasite management starting at 4 p.m., April 19 at the Osceola First Baptist Church, 555 Walnut Street, Osceola.

Susan Jaster with Lincoln University Cooperative Extension Small Farm Outreach Program and MU Extension Livestock Specialists Gene Schmitz and Patrick Davis will lead this workshop.
This workshop will include lecture, discussion, and a hands-on activity related to body condition scoring, FAMACHAc Scoring, Fecal Egg Count in sheep and goats. Linda Heryford will provide the sheep and goats used in the demonstrations.

Participants will become certified in FAMACHA eye anemia system and along with the Five Point Check System, is used to determine when sheep and goats need to be dewormed.

The workshop costs $35 per person. Preregistration, along with fee payment, must be submitted by April 16 to the St. Clair County MU Extension Center, P.O. Box 523, Osceola, Mo. 64776. The fee covers supper, refreshments, and handouts.

For registration or questions, contact the St. Clair County MU Extension Center at 417 - 646 - 2419 or by email at

University of Missouri Extension provides equal opportunity to all participants in extension programs and activities, and for all employees and applicants for employment on the basis of their demonstrated ability and competence without discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, ancestry, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, genetic information, disability, or protected veteran status. Contact us immediately if you need accommodations because of a disability, need to relay emergency medical information or need special arrangements if the building is evacuated.

USDA to Immediately Assist Producers for Qualifying Livestock, Honeybee and Farm-raised Fish Program Losses

04/09/2018 04:08 PM EDT

WASHINGTON, April 9, 2018 — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will issue $34 million to help agricultural producers recover from 2017 natural disasters through the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-raised Fish Program (ELAP), which covers losses not covered by certain other USDA disaster assistance programs. These payments are being made available today, and they are part of a broader USDA effort to help producers recover from hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, wildfires and drought. A large portion of this assistance will be made available in federally designated disaster areas.