Bushland, Texas - Finding variations of crops that can withstand drought and using new methods to extend water for irrigation, are now taking a front seat among agriculture studies in the High Plains.
That's because drought conditions are expected to last for years to come.
Producers in the panhandle are learning to do more with less, when it comes to their crops.
But that can't happen without lots of research to find new techniques that insure resources will last well into the future.
One of those techniques is developing variations of crops that can make it without much rain.
Dr. Jackie Rudd with Texas AgriLife Research says, "We're looking at the physiological mechanisms of drought tolerance, as well as new genetics. We're able to do molecular markers and whole genome finger-printing to really know genetically why and where the drought tolerance comes from, instead of just looking out here and saying well, which one looks better."
In times of extreme dryness, making the most out of each drop of water is vital.
That's done by increasing the amount of water that enters the soil and reducing evaporation.
Lining crops with wheat residue seems to do the trick.
USDA Research Soil Scientist Dr. Louis Baumgarten explains, "We increase the amount of water that enters the soil by almost 100% by having the residue on the soil's surface. We get more out of irrigation. More than one-half the water you normally lose to evaporation, is re-routed to the crop."
Wheat residue also protects the crop from the wind, and improves its' growth.
The winter wheat harvest is underway in Texas, and so far, statewide yields are above average.
However, things aren't looking quite as good in the panhandle, with dry land wheat bringing in below average yields.