Irrigation aside, there is typically no remedy for drought, but a number of abiotic stress management products now or soon to be on the market may give crops a fighting chance against dry conditions. Certain of these crop inputs purport to help plants tolerate heat, drought, chill and salinity.
A research team at the University of Texas at Austin has created what may be a revolutionary means to irrigate crops by drawing water from the air. The group has achieved proof of concept for a super moisture-absorbent gel (SMAG) soil additive that captures water vapour from the atmosphere and releases it into the soil.
The drought of 2021 affected crops across the Canadian Prairies and the Great Plains of the U.S. This significantly impacted crop yield and quality in the major barley producing provinces in Western Canada and the states of North Dakota, Idaho and Montana. To add insult to injury, many farms finally received precipitation in the middle of harvest. The hot, dry growing season produced very high protein content while the late moisture triggered significant pre-harvest sprouting.
There are two variables that dictate prices and are out of farmers’ control. First, governments everywhere have long meddled with agriculture and trade policy. The net impact has been to create enormous externalities—barriers that inhibit the laws of supply and demand from dictating prices. Canada, a large net exporter, has often struggled for market access and suffered diminished competitiveness against subsidized farmers. Countries such as China, India and the U.S. as well as the EU continue to restrict market access and some also offer farmer supports that distort the market. There is no indication this will fade.
Over seven-plus decades, Alberta farmer Charles Sherwood Noble developed and promoted new farming practices and technical innovations. Of these, the Noble blade cultivator was used around the world as a low soil disturbance weed control tool. For his work, he was named a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 1943.