Vital resources are becoming less available because of careless human use of the resources God has given us. The most critical of these resources is water. California produces a third of the vegetables that Americans eat, and 80% of California’s water usage is for agriculture. Thirty-two of the fifty-eight counties in California did not receive enough rain to meet the needs of the crops planted in 2022. To supply the needed water, farmers pumped it from underground aquifers faster than those aquifers were being replenished. As a result, farmers may have to return to an ancient practice called dry farming.
Farmers in areas around the Mediterranean have been using dry farming for centuries. Indigenous people like the Hopi in Arizona have used dry farming methods for thousands of years. People grow grapes in many places worldwide, but irrigating them can take a lot of water. With dry farming techniques, a grapevine can send roots down six meters into the ground to get the water it needs. Other crops such as tomatoes, squash, potatoes, and corn can be grown by dry farming methods.
Dry farming means not watering from the top but planting early and allowing more space between plants so their roots can reach out for water. For example, when tomatoes are planted early, their roots will go deeper into the soil, reaching water and minerals that can improve the taste. Saving water and improving flavor are two advantages of dry farming. Other benefits include less erosion and fewer weeds, meaning less need for herbicides. Also, dry farming requires less equipment than irrigation farming. Disadvantages include reduced size of the vegetables and lower yield.
The design of plants that produce food for humans allows them to be grown with smaller amounts of water with winter rain or snow, more space, and careful timing of the planting. By looking at how God structured plant growth in arid areas, indigenous people learned long ago how to survive in the desert southwest. The changing climate may force us to study God’s design and change the way we grow our food to be good stewards of the resources God has given.
— John N. Clayton © 2023
Reference: Cover story in Science News for March 11, 2023, pages 16 -20.