A brittle brown stalk of cotton rises against the barren field near here, a tombstone for a harvest that never happened.

It’s a straggler, overlooked by the equipment that plowed the rest of this field back into the parched earth weeks ago.

Across the High Plains, dry land cotton fields resemble pictures sent back from the Mars rover – field after field of lifeless red soil that testify to the state’s costliest drought. Its financial impact blows through the High Plains economy like the dust devils that spring from the empty land.