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Texas Water Report:
Going Deeper for the Solution

Dryland Farming

The conversation in agriculture is turning from irrigating crops more efficiently to not irrigating them at all

Irrigated agriculture is a key contributor to our economic fortunes, pumping billions into our economy (to see exactly how much, and the toll that drought conditions have taken on farm production, read page 10 of the Texas Water Report: Going Deeper for the Solution (PDF)).

However, a growing population will place increased demands on already slim water sources, meaning that farmers may have to revert to techniques used before irrigation came to the Plains. How does dryland farming work?

dryland plantig schedule

A typical dryland planting schedule might involve a three-year cycle producing two crops.

Farmers might also switch to producing feed for livestock, growing lower-grade corn, or wheat or sorghum for forage and silage.

“No-till” planting methods also reduce water usage by improving the soil’s ability to retain moisture. In a field that is not tilled, or plowed, stalks or straw from a previous crop are left on the ground as mulch. A farmer then can plant a crop after the land has been left fallow for almost a year. The obvious drawback is economic.

Continued improvement in water use efficiency may ease this impact somewhat, however, through the greater use of methods such as: