What is dryland agriculture?

What is dryland agriculture?

What is dryland agriculture?
A large part of the earth is arid; hence, these areas receive less annual rainfall and little or no water supply from rivers and other water resources. Millions of people live in these areas and they depend on agriculture to meet their food and dietary demands. Dryland farming is the practice of growing crops without irrigation facilities in areas that are arid. Arid areas receive less than fifty inches of annual precipitation. The success of dry land agriculture depends on the correct use of the available moisture that is present in the soil fields for the growing of crops. The wise selection of the crops that will adapt to the farming conditions is also a factor in dryland farming’s success. Dryland farming is practiced in Russia, Ukraine, the Middle East, Australia, Mexico, and many parts of the United States. These countries have arid areas. Dryland agricultural techniques are perfect for drought-prone areas that have water-scarce resources.

Types of dryland agriculture

Dry farming is done for areas where the rainfall is then 750 mm. Crop failures happen more in dry farming because of the dry spells during the crop period.

Dryland farming is done in areas where the rainfall is above 750 mm. Though dry spells occur during crop season, crop failures are not frequent. This kind of farming is usually done in semi-arid regions.

Rainfed farming is done for areas that receive 1150 mm of rainfall. Sub-humid and humid areas receive this amount of rainfall. There is very less chance of crop failure in this method.

The challenges in dryland farming

- Moisture conservation
- Soil conservation
- Rainfall is uncertain
- Selection of limited crops
- Efficient use and storage of rainwater
- Control of input costs
- Quality of the crops
- Efficient use of moisture
- Disposal of dry farming products
- Prolonged dry spells
- Low fertility of soils
- Inadequate distribution of rain
- Uneven distribution of rain
- Drought
- Bad economic status for farmers
- Lack of nutrients of land because of mono-cropping
- Reduction of yield due to monocropping

How to improve dryland agriculture

Watershed management
This technique involves the management of land surface and vegetation for the conservation of soil and water for the long-term benefit of farmers.

Ecological conservation
The practice which regenerates the ecosystem such as prevention of soil erosion and carbon sequestration is called ecological conservation. The techniques used are shelterbelts, strip cropping, terrace cultivation, and pasture cropping.

Organic farming
This technique excludes the use of pesticides, fertilizers, and hormones and relies on crop rotation, organic wastes, farm manure, and crop residues for the growth and protection of plants.

Water harvesting
Water harvesting is capturing waterfall and taking steps to keep the water clean. This is done by not allowing polluting activities.

Soil preparation
It is done through plowing, leveling, and manuring. The soil may not always be ideal due to continuous farming hence soil needs to be replenished consistently for plant protection and growth.

What are the crops grown in dry land agriculture?

The most expensive wines and oils are produced using dry land methods. Dry beans, melons, potatoes, tomatoes, and squash are all grown through dry land farming methods. Corn, sorghum, and millets are produced using dry land methods too. Legumes such as cowpeas and pigeon peas and leafy vegetables such as cassava greens and Leucaena, fruit vegetables such as watermelons, papaya, okra, cashews, olives, tamarinds are all grown through dry land farming methods.

The crops which cannot be grown using dry land agriculture are rice crops, sugar cane and cropped cotton as these crops require many litres of water per kilogram.

To build a crop successfully using dry land agriculture, takes a lot of experimentation and trial and error. Many farmers do not choose to do dry land farming practices because of the risk involved in it. The crops grown by dry land farming should also be drought tolerant. It is not just the water availability that determines the success of dry land farming; it is also the temperature conditions, nature of the soil, and the topography of the land that determines the success of dry land farming methods.

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