Farming without irrigation

Central Coast Organic Farm Tour

Dry-farmed Early Girl tomatoes at Dirty Girl Farm on California’s Central Coast. Photo by CUESA via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC 2.0)

About a year ago, I posted about a farming technique known as dry farming. I thought the topic was interesting and unusual enough that it merited a re-post while I was away last week. My timing turned out to be spot-on, since yesterday NPR ran its own piece on the subject.

As Alastair Bland describes,

At Happy Boy Farms, near Santa Cruz, sales director Jen Lynne believes dry farming could be an important agricultural practice in the future, when water will likely be a less abundant resource.

But the taste of her dry-farmed Early Girl tomatoes is the main reason chefs, wholesalers and individuals around the country are increasingly calling to place orders…. The idea behind dry farming is that by restricting a plant’s water intake, its fruits wind up with less water content and a greater density of sugar and other flavor compounds.

The main problem?

farming without irrigation has a major drawback: dramatically reduced yields.

Stan Devoto, a farmer in Northern California, says his dry-farmed trees produce 12 to 15 tons of apples per acre per year. Irrigated trees, on the other hand, may bear 40 or 50 tons. And McEnnis says he harvests about 4 tons of tomatoes off his acre of vines each summer and fall, whereas conventional growers may reap 40 tons per acre.

Head here for the full piece, and use one of these links to check out my earlier post.

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