Unable to adapt or try the new, fairly successful methods proposed by the bright minds of the era.
I think you give a little too much credit to the "bright minds" of the era. Agricultural research was still in its infancy, as were the Experiment Station and Extension Service systems that today are respected research and information sources. Hybrid corn, which is near universal today, had just been successfully introduced a few years before, in the mid-1920s.
There was still a lot of scientific quackery around, so I don't blame them for being skeptical. And as powerbiscuit says, they weren't uneducated. Most probably were highly literate, though you are correct that their scientific training may have been lacking. But almost anyone born around the turn of the last century was lacking in scientific training. And in the knowledge of how to do what they were doing, they were well-educated. Keeping a primitive engine running would have been a prized skill, Internet surfing, not so much.
Their was bias to this documentary
I noticed the rather gleeful assertion that it was FDR that saved them, when it was rain that did so. However, the way the government tried to help, and the way the "Okies" were treated in California, it does make one understand the political climate of today in California.
One big thing I noticed was the reluctance of folks to ask for government help. They were too proud to apply even when eligible. They talked of the shame of having the government relief truck coming to drop off food at their house.
Sadly, today's takers seem to take it as a point of pride that they are "getting theirs" from the government.
A little shame would be a good thing.
Is seems the major difference and probably the real reason for any substantial change in the dust storms is the emergence of irrigation. The ground doesn't dry up as much with a significant portion of the panhandle being irrigated.
My guess is the dust bowl era will return from time to time once irrigation is significantly reduced in the area.
I'm going to disagree with my friend pb here, a bit. Irrigation is helpful, but the dust bowl ended in the 40s due to RAIN. The irrigation boom really didn't come until the 1950s.
If there were no irrigation, I don't see us going back to the dust bowl. Almost no one use the clean-field methods of the 1920s and 1930s, and much of the highly erodible land in the plains is back in grass now. Obviously, production would plummet, and the plains would tend to depopulate, but much of that is already happening due to mechanization of farming.
Of course, if the rainfall were to stop for several years, things could get very bad again. But not to 1930s levels.
it was the speculative people who rushed in when wheat prices were at the highest and turned up every piece of land they could find and then just left the land bare when the prices fell and they took off back to where ever they came from
The bigger the piece of ground left open to wind, the worse the erosion. Even today, if your land is not blowing, a neighbor's land can blow and start your sand moving. And some of the people (suitcase farmers) were hobby farmers or speculators, but a lot were folks who couldn't afford to plow, or who had simply left. Regarding the speculators:
Wheat today is higher than it's ever been, on a dollar per bushel basis, at around $8 to $9 a bushel. But look at the $2.45/bu in 1920. Adjusted for inflation, that would be over $27 a bushel in today's dollars.
No wonder people were growing wheat as hard as they could. Oh, and the low of $0.49/bu in 1932? That's about $8.00 a bushel in 2011 dollars....pretty much where we are today, tied with the Great Depression.
[This message has been edited by CanyonAg77 (edited 11/20/2012 8:35a).]