Tag Archives: Soil

Dry Farming

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Fields in the Palouse, Washington State

Dryland farming and dry farming are agricultural techniques for non-irrigated cultivation of crops. Dryland farming is associated with drylands; dry farming is often associated with areas characterized by a cool wet season followed by a warm dry season.

Dry farming is not to be confused with rainfed agriculture. Rainfed agriculture refers to crop production that occurs during a rainy season. Dry farming, on the other hand, refers to crop production during a dry season, utilizing the residual moisture in the soil from the rainy season, usually in a region that receives 20” or more of annual rainfall. Dry farming works to conserve soil moisture during long dry periods primarily through a system of tillage, surface protection, and the use of drought-resistant varieties.

Dryland farming locations

Dryland farming is used in the Great Plains, the Palouse plateau of Eastern Washington, and other arid regions of North America such as in the South-western United States and Mexico (see Agriculture in the Southwestern United States and Agriculture in the prehistoric Southwest), the Middle East and in other grain growing regions such as the steppes of Eurasia and Argentina. Dryland farming was introduced to southern Russia and Ukraine by Slavic Mennonites under the influence of Johann Cornies, making the region the breadbasket of Europe. In Australia, it is widely practiced in all states but the Northern Territory.

Dry farmed crops

Dry farmed crops may include grapes, tomatoes, pumpkins, beans, winter wheat, corn, beans, Sunflowers or even watermelon and other summer crops. These crops grow using the winter water stored in the soil, rather than depending on rainfall during the growing season. Dry farming process

Dry farming depends on making the best use of the “bank” of soil moisture that was created by winter rainfall. Dry farming is not a yield maximization strategy; rather it allows nature to dictate the true sustainability of agricultural production in a region. Dry farming as “a soil tillage technique, is the art of working the soil; starting as early as possible when there is a lot of moisture in the soil, working the ground, creating a sponge-like environment so that the water comes from down below, up into the sponge. You press it down with a roller or some other implement to seal the top…so the water can’t evaporate and escape out.” Some dry farming practices include:

  • Wider than normal spacing, to provide a larger bank of moisture for each plant.
  • Controlled Traffic
  • No-till/zero-till or minimum till
  • Strict weed control, to ensure that weeds do not consume soil moisture needed by the cultivated plants.
  • Cultivation of soil to produce a “dust mulch”, thought to prevent the loss of water through capillary action. This practice is controversial, and is not universally advocated.
  • Selection of crops and cultivars suited for dry farming practices.

While dry farming is not for every grower or every region, it is a promising system of crop management that offers greater crop security in times of uncertain water supply and can offer a higher-quality product.

Pros and Cons of Organic Farming

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Some of the Crops Grown Organically at a Farmers Market in Munich

What is Organic Farming?
Organic farming is a technique used in farming without the use of any chemicals or synthetics. Its aim is to produce crops which have the highest nutritional values with least impact on nature. Crop rotation, green manure, use of natural fertilizers and biological pest control form the crux of organic farming. It is a proactive ecology management strategy. This strategy enhances the fertility of the soil, prevents soil erosion and at the same time protects the humans and animal kingdom from the side-effects of chemicals and synthetics. Many of the farm products, like, vegetables, fruit, herbs, meat, milk, eggs, etc. are produced organically by some farmers.

“Organic” as defined by law, implies quality assurance. The words “natural” and “eco-friendly” mean that organic farming techniques might have been used, but it does not necessarily mean completely following organic techniques.

Pros and Cons of Organic Farming
Like everything else, organic farming also has its pros and cons…
The most important of the advantages of organic farming is that it maintains the life of the soil, not only for the current generation, but also for the future generations. Water pollution is reduced with organic farming. Most of the time after it rains, the water from the fields, which contains chemicals, gets drained into the rivers. This pollutes the water bodies. In organic farming, since no chemicals or synthetics are used, water pollution reduces as well.

Organic farming helps in building richer soil. Rich soil is obtained by intelligently rotating crops. The rich soil helps in plant growth. The rate of soil erosion is reduced drastically. A French study has revealed that the nutritional quality and micro-nutrients are present in higher quantities in organically produced crops. The micro-nutrients promote good health. Organically grown food tastes better too. The overall cost of cultivating the crops reduces as the farmers use green manure or worm farming to replenish the lost nutrients of the soil. The other option that the farmers use, is to grow legumes in rotation with other crops. The life of organically grown plants is longer than the plants cultivated by traditional methods. Organically grown crops are more drought tolerant. The chemical fertilizers cause the plant to ripen fast. When the crop does not get water it withers and dies, which is not the case with organic crops.

Along with the pros, there are certain cons too. The first disadvantage is low productivity. With the highly developed chemicals and machinery, the farmer is able to multiply his harvest manifold times. The organic farmers use the cultivation method as opposed to drilling method used by the traditional farmers. The cultivated soil is prone to wind and water erosion. The traditional farmers opine that direct drilling does not cause any disharmony in the soil structure. The next argument is that the organically produced food is expensive. The cost is very often 50-100 percent more than the traditional food. The other valid argument is that organic food is not always available. There is a reason behind that. The organic farmers grow crops in accordance to the season. Neither do they artificially grow any crop nor do they extend the life of the plant or use chemicals, synthetics or pesticides. Therefore, oranges will be found only in winter and mangoes only in summer. Looking at it from the health benefits point of view, there is no doubt that you will benefit if you eat a particular food item, when it is actually in season.

After weighing the pros and cons of organic farming, it is noticed that the pros outweigh the cons. It is therefore best to consume organically grown food, although it is expensive.

HARDENING TRANSPLANTS – VEGETABLE GARDENING

Introduction
The transplanting process can be a shock to rapidly growing seedlings especially when set out into the cold windy garden in the spring. This is especially true for transplants started in the greenhouse, cold frame, hotbed or home. These young seedlings can be made somewhat resistant to heat, cold temperatures, drying and whipping winds, certain types of insect injury, injury from blowing sand and soil particles and low soil moisture by a process termed “hardening.”
The term “hardening” refers to any treatment that results in a firming or hardening of plant tissue. Such a treatment reduces the growth rate, thickens the cuticle and waxy layers, reduces the percentage of freezable water in the plant and often results in a pink color in stems, leaf veins and petioles. Such plants often have smaller and darker green leaves than non hardened plants. Hardening results in an increased level of carbohydrates in the plant permitting a more rapid root development than occurs in non hardened plants.
Cool-season flower and vegetable plants can develop hardiness allowing them to withstand subfreezing temperatures. Unhardened cabbage seedlings have been reported to be damaged by temperatures of -2 degrees C (28 degrees F) while hardened cabbage will tolerate temperatures as low as -6 degrees C (22 degrees F).
Warm-season types of plants even when hardened, will not withstand temperatures much below freezing. If transplanted to the garden or field prior to the average last killing spring frost, such plants should be provided protection by hot caps or other such devices.
Method
Any of the following can be used to harden transplants. A combination of all these techniques at one time is more effective.
1. Gradually reduce water – water lightly at less frequent intervals but do not allow the plants to wilt severely.
2. Expose plants to lower temperature than is reported as optimal for their growth. If biennials are exposed to cold for an extended period, they may bolt in lieu of developing properly. Note: Placing the plants outside during the day to encourage hardening and then bringing the plants back into the warm house during the night often reverses the hardening process. Plants could be placed in a cold frame or other area that does not freeze during the night hours without lose of the hardening process.
3. Do not fertilize, particularly with nitrogen immediately before or during the hardening process. A starter solution or liquid fertilizer could however be applied to the hardened transplants one or two days prior to transplanting into the garden or at the time of transplanting.
4. Gradually expose the plants to more sunlight. This results in the development of a thicker cuticle layer thereby reducing water loss.
Cautions
Hardening is not necessary for all transplants. We recommend that with the exception of tomatoes, plants that are susceptible to frost should not be hardened. Overly hardened plants while withstanding unfavorable outside conditions are slow to get started and may never overcome the stress placed on the plant during the hardening process. We also recommend that plants be hardened for no longer than seven to ten days before planting to the garden site.