It doesn’t seem to matter where we farm these days – it’s essential to drought-proof our farms.

Many farmers are experiencing the worst droughts in living memory. In parts of the world, drought threatens lives as well as livelihoods.

Making our farms more resilient to drought, we extend our growing seasons by keeping soil moist well into the dry, make the most of the water we have available, and save money on feed for livestock when the growing gets tough.

What is the best way to drought-proof your farm?

Digging dams, bores and putting in new water points? Planned de-stocking and rotational grazing practices? Mulch, water-smart irrigation technology, and seasonal cropping in horticulture and arable production? Using engineering solutions like swales, keylines, and Natural Sequence Farming?

They all help.

BUT there is a remarkably simple, eco-logical and cost-effective solution that tends to get overlooked – improving our water cycle.

Improving our water cycle, using the tools in the olive green boxes in the diagram below, gets the rain measured in our rain gauge infiltrating our soil rather than running off AND increases the amount of water stored in our soil.

 

 

 

Plants store water, reduce temperatures and water loss from the soil through evaporation. But the real magic happens through vegetation supplying food for our soil ecosystems.

Given a plentiful, regular and preferably diverse diet of organic materials and root exudates (the sugars and proteins plants release from their roots) soil organisms will construct soil for you which water readily infiltrates and is stored.

This eco-logical approach to drought-proofing is:

  • Cost-effective to implement across your farm
  • Beneficial for your soil – you’ll get the free ecological services functioning soil ecosystems provide[2]
  • Profitable – yields improve and you gain opportunities to develop new income streams by producing additional crops (stacking enterprises) within your existing production systems.

Your growing conditions improve, and you get the rain measured in your rain gauge infiltrating and stored in your soil rather than running off.

“Sustainable intensification requires smarter, precision technologies for irrigation, and farming practices that use ecosystem approaches to conserve water” Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations

A policymaker’s guide to the sustainable intensification of smallholder crop production, FAO, 2011

 

Find out why this eco-logical approach works and how to use it to drought-proof your farm with the publication – How to drought-proof your farm.

If you are a gardener, the eco-logical principles are the same. However, we will be publishing a guide specifically for gardeners soon. Let us know if you would like a copy.

 

[1] Transpiration is the process by which water is carried through plants from roots to small pores on the underside of leaves, where it is released as water vapour to the atmosphere.
[2] Wendy Seabrook, 2019, Eco-logical Farming Handbook, published by Learning from Nature