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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dryland farming

Dryland farming is an agricultural technique for cultivating land which receives little rainfall. Dryland farming is used in the Great Plains, the Palouse plateau of Eastern Washington regions of North America, the Middle East and in other grain growing regions such as the steppes of Eurasia and Argentina. Dryland farming was introduced to the southern Russian Empire by Russian Mennonites under the influence of Johann Cornies, making the region the breadbasket of Russia. Winter wheat is the typical crop although skilled dryland farmers sometimes grow corn, beans or even watermelons. Successful dryland farming is possible with as little as 15 inches (380 mm) of precipitation a year, but much more successful with 20 inches (510 mm) or more. It is also known that Native American tribes in the arid SouthWest subsisted for hundreds of years on dryland farming in areas with less than 10 inches (250 mm) of rain.

In marginal regions, a farmer should be financially able to survive occasional crop failures, perhaps of several years running. A soil which absorbs and holds moisture is helpful as is the practice of leaving stubble standing in the field to catch blowing snow.

There are many techniques to dry farm. Some common techniques are to pull weeds that suck moisture, plant seeds deep in the ground to get maximum moisture and fallowing the land. Another technique is to plant crops in every other row. This way the odd rows' moisture will be built up for 2 years. This technique uses a lot of space since the farmer is only using half the land for profit.

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