NewsNation went to scorching hot Texas to take a look at the heat’s impact on farms and produce.
Currently in the middle of one of the hottest U.S. summers on record, the southwest region of the country has seen little to no rain — a combination of unfortunate events that has left behind scorched earth and struggling crops.
From Texas watermelons and Arkansas blueberries to grapes in California wine country, all sorts of crops have been feeling the stress. Even Tennessee corn is measuring about 18 inches shorter than usual this season.
“Because of the inadequate moisture we’ve had, it’s causing the plant to prematurely die because it’s not uptaking the nutrients that it needs to be able to survive and continue to grow,” Dr. Juan Anciso, a Texas A&M University vegetable specialist, said during Tuesday’s edition of NewsNation’s “Rush Hour.”
At a hydroponic farm in Waco, Texas, for example, the electronic watering and shade systems aren’t enough to keep greens at consistent temperatures. This causes their butter lettuce to grow vertically instead of horizontally, resulting in a bitter taste instead of a sweet one.
“This prolonged drought in the southwestern United States is a very serious matter,” Anciso said. He also said current conditions are bad, but experts are even more concerned about fall crops, as they could threaten the food supply.
“We’re very concerned going into this fall that we won’t have enough water in the sense of growing the normal amount of acreage we normally do, especially for vegetables,” he continued.
“We often here in central Texas go through many dry periods,” said Sean Kelly, a meteorologist at KXAN news. ”So this is kind of typical, but for this to coincide with this extreme heat … that’s when it becomes unprecedented.”
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, almost 45% of the United States is in drought. That includes more than half of the 48 continental states.