Want to learn how dry farming works? It can be a great practice if you have cool wet seasons followed by warm dry seasons. So, Read On!
Dry Farming on Your Homestead | Types of Farming
Dry farming is a technique of crop production during dry season using the residual moisture of the soil coming from the rainy season rather than depending on irrigation. Dry farming techniques involve conserving soil moisture during long dry periods through a combination of management techniques which includes drought-resistant varieties of crops, a timing of planting, tillage, surface protection, and keyline design.
Key Elements of Dry Farming
1. Capturing and Conservation of Moisture
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In regions such as Eastern Washington, the average annual precipitation available to a dryland farm may be as little as 8.5 inches (220 mm). Consequently, moisture must be captured until the crop can utilize it. Techniques include summer fallow rotation (in which one crop is grown on two seasons’ precipitation, leaving standing stubble and crop residue to trap snow), and preventing runoff by terracing fields.
“Terracing” is also practiced by farmers on a smaller scale by laying out the direction of furrows to slow water runoff downhill, usually by plowing along either contours or keylines. Moisture can be conserved by eliminating weeds and leaving crop residue to shade the soil.
2. Effective Use of Available Moisture
Once moisture is available for the crop to use, it must be used as effectively as possible. Seed planting depth and timing are carefully considered to place the seed at a depth at which sufficient moisture exists, or where it will exist when seasonal precipitation falls. Farmers tend to use crop varieties which are drought and heat-stress tolerant, (even lower-yielding varieties). Thus the likelihood of a successful crop is hedged if seasonal precipitation fails.
3. Soil Conservation
The nature of dryland farming makes it particularly susceptible to erosion, especially wind erosion. Some techniques for conserving soil moisture (such as frequent tillage to kill weeds) are at odds with techniques for conserving topsoil. Since healthy topsoil is critical to sustainable dryland agriculture, its preservation is generally considered the most important long-term goal of a dryland farming operation. Erosion control techniques such as windbreaks, reduced tillage or no-till, spreading straw (or other mulch on particularly susceptible ground), and strip farming are used to minimize topsoil loss.
4. Control of Input Costs
Dryland farming is practiced in regions inherently marginal for non-irrigated agriculture. Because of this, there is an increased risk of crop failure and poor yields which may occur in a dry year (regardless of money or effort expended). Dryland farmers must evaluate the potential yield of a crop constantly throughout the growing season and be prepared to decrease inputs to the crop such as fertilizer and weed control if it appears that it is likely to have a poor yield due to insufficient moisture. Conversely, in years when moisture is abundant, farmers may increase their input efforts and budget to maximize yields and to offset poor harvests.
Popular Crops That Have Been Used for Dry Farming
8. Winter Squash
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