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What is Dryland Farming?

Shashank Nakate Mar 17, 2019
Dryland farming is practiced in regions with less rainfall. It employees several techniques in order to preserve water and to farm in the available amount of it.
The concept of dryland farming incorporates the idea of making maximum use of available moisture. The regions which receive less rainfall can benefit from the practice of dry farming. Reducing the wastage of water that results from run-off and preventing evaporation of water are the core ideas underlying the practice of dry farming.
Areas receiving less than 20 inches rainfall on an annual basis are classified as drylands. There are many problems that occur in successful cultivation of crops in these regions. However, dryland farming is the answer to these problems.

Meaning and Applications

The idea of dryland farming got popularized by its use in the Great Plains region of the US. This method of agriculture proved to be of great use in increasing the wheat production. Hardy Webster Campbell from South Dakota used it successfully. In this method, soil moisture is conserved by means of dust mulch

Characteristics of Dryland Farming

  • The rainfall received in dry areas is very limited. Moreover, there is great uncertainty in the rainfall received by regions with this kind of a climate.
  • The soil surface is undulating, which leads to greater run-off, and thereby wastage of moisture.
  • Climatic hazards like drought make it difficult for life to survive.
  • Cattle in such regions have poor health due to malnutrition.
  • There isn't much variety in crops grown in these areas.

Crops for Dry Farming

The crops that are chosen for dry farming should either be drought evasive or drought resistant. These plants have special adaptations which help them conserve moisture. For example, sorghum (jowar) reduces the rate of transpiration and resists dry conditions.
The growth ceases in these dry conditions. Plants resume growth on the onset of favorable conditions. Nowadays, genetically modified species of plants are used which are resistant to the dryland atmosphere.

Guidelines for Dryland Farming

  • The soil should be deep plowed before rains. This stores water in high amount than in normal conditions and facilitates root growth by providing enough space to spread.
  • Various methods to increase the concentration of crops need to be employed.
  • Proper choice of seeds (varieties), suitable for growing in dry conditions have to be made.
  • Sowing is to be done deep in the soil, and the quantity of seeds used for sowing should be according to the area. Do not use extra seeds as it leads to waste of moisture.
  • The water run-off can be reduced by terracing. In this practice, furrows are laid out so as to reduce the speed of the flow of water. This practice is also known as contour plowing.
  • Soil erosion control measures like reduced tillage, use of wind-breaks, mulching can be used.
  • The summer fallow technique also proves useful for moisture conservation. The cropland is not cultivated (kept fallow) for full season. The crop grown in next season benefits from the water being conserved and nutrients that are left unused during the fallow season.
  • Topsoil holds great importance from the point of water conservation as well as nutrient usage. In order to minimize the loss of nutrients, one should practice strip farming.