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Agriculture and mother nature
Dr. Victor Martin

As of Aug. 24 the areas of abnormally dry and moderate drought are expanding into much of the western two-thirds of the state and this week’s heat will exacerbate this. All but the southeast corner of Barton county is rated dry. This weather is rapidly drying down corn. And there are likely yield reductions for dryland soybeans. For milo it’s a mixed bag depending on the growth stage. Earlier planted fields are starting to turn color but we also have fields just now in bloom. It’s interesting that just west of Barton is a doughnut hole where conditions are not even rated abnormally dry. The six to ten-day outlook (Sept. 1 to 5) indicates more above normal temperatures and positively above normal precipitation. However, we are heading into the drier time of year so we will have to wait and see. The eight to 14-day outlook (Sept. 3 to 9) actually indicates normal temperatures and above normal rainfall.  

There’s a lot going on in the world currently and one of the items garnering a great deal of headlines is the weather and climate. Here is just a brief list of current weather headlines:

• Severe drought gripping much of the western half to two-thirds of the continental U.S.

• Extreme heat in many parts of the U.S. and the world and that is often coupled with dry conditions.

• A significant increase in the number and severity of tropical storms/hurricanes.

• Severe flooding from extreme rainfall events in many parts of the world and not associated with tropical storms.

To go along with the weather events, there are many events regarding plant/animal life. This includes native/wild plants and animals along with livestock and crops. For both of these it includes new diseases and increased pressure from established diseased. Insect pressure is increasing in forests and farmer fields. Weed pressure and resistance to herbicides are more and more problematic. For humans these changes include new diseases such as the Zika Virus. Around 20 years ago in our area it was the West Nile Virus. So what is going on?  

Today, let’s not focus on the manmade climate topic but why things are so topsy-turvy.

• The Second Law of Thermodynamics, the law of entropy, in plain English states that “Mother Nature” prefers lower energy states as they are easier to maintain. And that where a difference exists between the amounts of something (temperature differences, pressure differences, etc.) nature will try to eliminate those differences. The lowest energy state that’s easy to maintain. And things flow from more to less and higher to lower.

• Entropy is essentially why we have our weather. Nature seeks to eliminate these differences in temperature and pressure for example. As these differences between hot and cold, wet and dry, etc. grow larger, the result is more extreme events.

• Entropy plays a role in pest pressure in the environment. A farm field is a well-ordered system that takes continual energy inputs to maintain (fertilizer, weeding, etc.). Nature “fights” against the system and tries to establish a less ordered, easier to maintain state. Sort of like a neat teenager’s bedroom vs. a messy one.

Dr. Victor L. Martin is the agriculture instructor/coordinator for Barton Community College. He can be reached at 620-792-9207, ext. 207, or