The Garden City Telegram
10/2/2012
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Crop circles

New stamp delivers intriguing message.

A colorful part of southwest Kansas now adorns a new U.S. stamp.

One of 15 new images in a Forever stamp series released Monday features a satellite view of irrigated Kansas crops.

The fields of wheat, alfalfa, corn and soybeans watered by center-pivot irrigation make for an interesting geometric patchwork design — a sight that's nothing new in southwest Kansas, where center-pivot irrigation used to water crops in a drought-stricken region creates farm fields of full and partial circles.

The Forever stamps series features a number of spectacular shots of natural, agricultural and urban subjects in the nation. The aerial photo of land near Garden City, taken in 2011 by NASA's Landsat 7 satellite, came about as part of a study of natural resources. Seven Landsat satellites have been launched since 1972 as part of an effort to gather information about Earth. Currently a joint venture by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey, the Earth-observing satellite mission — the longest continuous global record of the planet's surface from space — has contributed to the study of changes on Earth made by natural processes and human practices.

NASA's Landsat Data Continuity Mission exists to further the understanding, monitoring and managing of vital resources of food, water and forests.

And when it comes to water resources, it's not such a pretty picture in this part of the world.

Center-pivot irrigation did indeed lead to higher yields and food production in areas where plants otherwise would succumb to drought. The practice became an economic difference-maker in southwest Kansas and other dry parts of the country.

But as time has passed, the mining of water also has been a factor in the drain of the Ogallala Aquifer. Policymakers continue to address the practice, and for good reason as water becomes more scarce.

The new stamp, meanwhile, delivers a more pleasant picture in colorful circles of crops.

Southwest Kansans should appreciate the local slice of life featured on a new U.S. stamp. Knowing the image came about as part of an important study of man's impact on natural resources makes the development all the more thought-provoking.