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Anybody growing without irrigation?

 
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Catherine;

Here is an interesting question. You are using dense plantings to shade the soil and reduce evaporation. Other drylands farmers are spacing plants really widely, with all weeds kept down and little mulch, so that each plant can get the most water.

It seems to me that as one goes north, the wide space system makes progressively more sense as temperatures drop.

If that is so, I would be right on the borderline.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Christine,

How do you keep the pressure consistent in your watering system? If found that with a drilled PVC pipe, most of the water came out of the first few holes, and that was with hose pressure. How does it work with low tank pressure?

We don't really have snow cover here. Snow comes, but goes away within a week or so as the weather warms up. We can get frosts in any month of the year but July and August, and snow from May to September. At the same time, February can get up to 80 degrees. So winter comes in little bursts all year.

Rye grows very well, planted in October, without irrigation it is ready for harvest in July.

It is cooler here in the summer, the highest I have seen is 100F, the lowest is 0F.
 
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gilbert fritz.  farmers who till need to make distance between plants and keep a dust mulch to keep the moisture from evaporating.

farmers who do NOT till have a tremendous amount of water retained in the soil via microbes and carbon  content.  they can also have plants close together as the microbes and carbon provide fertility as well as water.

as we have hotter sun, we need shade for our plants.   shade whether from dried mulch or cover cropping can help with hold the moisture in as well.
 
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Gilbert Fritz wrote:Other drylands farmers are spacing plants really widely



I'm going to try Zai Holes spaced about four feet apart, and grow beans and squash with the corn to sprawl over the exposed soil.  A combo of Zai Holes and Three Sisters.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Charlotte,

Let's say that there are only 20 inches of rain in a year, and my good deep soil holds them all. Now let's say that I plant tomatoes one foot apart with an understory of clover. If those plants use 30 inches in a year, I'm going to be in trouble, even if none evaporates from the top soil.

In fact, very little water evaporates from lower levels; after the top inch or two dries out, evaporation will effectively cease. After this point, any water leaving the soil goes right through the plants, which effectively pull the water out of the soil. A corn crop in the silk stage can pull 2 inches of water per week out of the soil.

Now, with the scenario above, let's say I remove the clover cover crop, and chop out every other tomato plant. Now my plants need only 15 inches a year. Even if 5 inches now evaporates from a bare surface, I will be within my water budget.

And it make very little difference to this if I'm tilling or no till.

Now, I'm fond of mulch, but mulch will only stop the relatively small losses from direct evaporation, not the large losses from too many plants per square foot.

If you look at natural systems, wet climate and semi-wet climate tree systems tend to be heavily mulched. Dry climates have widely spaced plants, less mulch, and fire. Annual systems, wherever they occur, are lightly mulched. Tropic systems have a living mulch.

Cool climates with a deep mulch will have trouble with a cool soil.

Also, mulch helps to conserve applied irrigation water, but may not be as useful when depending on rainfall; light rains are prevented from reaching the soil by the mulch. Tribes in drylands areas often spread gravel and sand on plots, not organic mulch, since rocks allow for infiltration. Irrigation applied under a foot of mulch is very efficient, a foot of mulch is a bad way to utilize an inch of rain a month.

Finally, in some climates, there is ground water that deep rooted plants can access, in other areas it gets dryer as one goes down, until one gets into the several hundred feet down range.

In other words, it all depends!
 
Tyler Ludens
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Gilbert Fritz wrote:Tribes in drylands areas often spread gravel and sand on plots, not organic mulch, since rocks allow for infiltration.



Something I plan to try at some point is to place rocks over organic mulch in permanent beds.  Each year the rocks could be removed and new mulch or rough compost added to replenish the soil, and the rocks replaced.  This sort of bed would be best with widely spaced large plants such as tomatoes or squash, I think.

 
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Tyler Ludens wrote:

Gilbert Fritz wrote:Tribes in drylands areas often spread gravel and sand on plots, not organic mulch, since rocks allow for infiltration.



Something I plan to try at some point is to place rocks over organic mulch in permanent beds.  Each year the rocks could be removed and new mulch or rough compost added to replenish the soil, and the rocks replaced.  This sort of bed would be best with widely spaced large plants such as tomatoes or squash, I think.


Wouldn't stone mulch hold a LOT of heat in conjuntion with widely spaced plants in your climate?
 
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Gilbert Fritz wrote:Christine,

How do you keep the pressure consistent in your watering system? If found that with a drilled PVC pipe, most of the water came out of the first few holes, and that was with hose pressure. How does it work with low tank pressure?



The pressure is NOT consistent.  But neither is the amount of water per plant.   But with PERMACULTURE / POLY PLANTING that doesn't matter.    I run the the poly pipe in circles around trees and then in wiggly lines so it hits all the plants.    Then I make holes for every planted area, the trees all have water wells and I try to make water wells around veggies too.  Even for small trees I need at least two holes.   Much of my property is sloped so it's some work to level larger water wells and they need to be leveled before mulching.

Then I turn on the water, I see how much water I get and when I need more water, I just make more holes.   I also found that I can direct the water to go about 10 inches on either side in various directions just by using the hole punch and redoing an existing hole at a angle.  Not sure how that works, but it does.   If it squirts too far away, I just put a tall rock where I want the water to go, or I put a rock on the line if I want it right there.  And then there are goof plugs to close holes.

Occasionally I run a some 1/4" line if I need water further a few feet away, but that doesn't work well for longer runs on gravity.

Obviously, you have more pressure when the tank is full than when it's almost empty and it requires regular checking.  But I found that I need to check the plants anyway for tomato worms and whatever insects, to harvest, etc. so I do that after a few minutes of watering at least every few days.    As zucchini, tomatoes etc. get bigger, I direct the water further away from the stem, either by moving the line a little or by redirecting the water and I make new water wells.

In my hoophouse I have drip tape on a timer and therefore sometimes don't get in there for a few days or even a week when I'm busy.  That tank is probably 10 or so feet higher up on the hill and I run 3/4" poly to the hoophouse, so I have better pressure as that drip tape is not intended for gravity watering.

There is a new drip tape for gravity watering and I'll order that and try it out next time they have a sale.  

I'm NOT a believer in "consistent" watering and prefer the soil to dry out in the top 2 or 3 inches occasionally, deep watered at other times, and then of course rain goes everywhere (except the hoophouse, and that'll change as soon as the plastic goes bad) so that the roots branch out.  

Just got my new camera and plan on some pictures this week.  

We don't really have snow cover here. Snow comes, but goes away within a week or so as the weather warms up. We can get frosts in any month of the year but July and August, and snow from May to September. At the same time, February can get up to 80 degrees. So winter comes in little bursts all year.

Rye grows very well, planted in October, without irrigation it is ready for harvest in July.

It is cooler here in the summer, the highest I have seen is 100F, the lowest is 0F.



Very much like Santa Fe, I have friends there.    You definitely have a VERY SHORT growing season and it would help to create micro climates, place big rocks to store heat on the north side of plants, etc.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Wouldn't stone mulch hold a LOT of heat in conjuntion with widely spaced plants in your climate?



Probably, but this might help with some crops, such as melons, eggplant, peppers, etc. that find the nights here too cool.
 
Tyler Ludens
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The stones are white and tend to reflect - soil under them tends to be cooler and moister than bare soil.  But I can't know for certain how it would work without trying it.  The cooling effect might be even more pronounced under a canopy of sprawling foliage.



 
Christine Baker
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Tyler Ludens wrote:The stones are white and tend to reflect - soil under them tends to be cooler and moister than bare soil.  But I can't know for certain how it would work without trying it.  The cooling effect might be even more pronounced under a canopy of sprawling foliage.



Not all rocks are white.  Here the only white rocks are caliche.  Most are grey, composite redish rocks and then there's black lava rock.  And, there's paint.  I used to spay paint gallon plastic jugs black, fill them with water and put them along the inside perimeter of a small greenhouse. Also had an 80 or so gallon black water barrel in the middle.  Raised the night time temps about 10 degrees, but the plastic jugs only lasted a year or two before they got brittle and it was really messy.  Water stores more heat than rocks, but rock sure works for Holzer and his citrus.
 
charlotte anthony
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gilbert

1) have you watched the video from gabe brown, where he calculates how much water is held in soil with a high carbon/microbe. on his 5000 acres it is millions of gallons of water.

2) i have read a lot about how much water plants use and i do not believe that it is as solid as you sound like you think it is.  i have seen as much as 10 times variation for different reasons.  it is not black and white.  

3) all over india they have used multicropping successfully often without any fertilizer with the soil improving year after year with 20 inches of rainfall, with dry land farming for millenia.  they stopped doing this because some scientists measuring what the plants needed in terms of fertility and saying they needed to monocrop.  whatever these measurements are probably because of being based on chemical fertilizers which mainly go into the aquefers the science is very misleading and is responsible for huge problems.  .  multicropping actually helps the fertility, does not take away from it.  we will see the same with water.  

4) all the stories about the mycorhizzals and the mother trees.  the plants are not competing, they are helping each other.  plants are very complicated and where some scientists may have done some experiments showing water uptake, i do no believe they have any kind of solid information.

5)i think backwards from the results i want to see.  if gabe brown can grow vegetables with his 14 inches of rain a year, i want to know how i can do it.  i certainly do not want to take scientific evidence of why i cannot do it.  

6) i am surprised that you do not seem to see the difference between no till (a living soil) and a tilled soil.  i do understand that you are saying that if the plant needs exactly this amount of water, it will not matter if the soil is tilled or not.  like i said above, this is not how the soil/plant combinations work.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Christine Baker wrote:
Not all rocks are white.



I was talking about my own rocks, all of which are white.  I was talking about what I want to try in my own situation.

 
charlotte anthony
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woke up with more thoughts for gilbert, re water uptake of plants

i am sure this is one of thousands (or maybe i should say as this is quite complicated ten of thousands) of variables affecting how much water the plants need.


this is from regeneration of the soil by claude bourguignon.

normally when the plant takes up potassium from the soil solution and brings it into the membrane, it immediately releases another unit of potassium into the cell sap.  the plant has no regulatory system for the uptake of potassium.  if you put a lot of potassium in the cell the plant is unable to regulate its uptake and absorbs high quantities of it.  consequently you have a lot of positive charge on the membrane.  to be sure to have this you have to put in a lot of phosphorus because potassium is pumped by ATP which uses phosphorus.  so if you put more phosphorus a lot of potassium gets pumped into the membrane.  then when you put a lot of nitrate in the soil, when you put a lot of nitrate in the soil, what happens?  the concentration of nitrate inside the cell increases a lot.  on the electric side there is no problem as there is a balance:  the plus charge of potassium is compensated by the minus charge of nitrate.  the big problem however is on the osmotic side.  an atom alone has no osmotic charge.  it has no salty reaction.  but a molecule like nitrate has a high salty concentration and thus has an osmotic force.  owing to this the plant is obliged to bring a lot more water inside the cell.  we call this turgor pressure.  so the plant becomes full of water, extremely fragile and susceptible to attacks of disease, bacteria and so on.  then you have to use pesticides.  in the end what happens is that you eat plants which are in disequilibrium.

what i understand from the above is that soils and plants have evolved to work with slowly decomposing organic matter by way of their microbe partners and they do not have mechanicsms to shut down uptake of the kind of concentrated plant food they are being fed now whether chemical or organic.  

in india there is a term called wamphasa for where there is dampness not wetness and this is the place that plants grow. Too much or too little water retards their growth.  For the purposes of this discussion, too much water would be counterproductive.  

Bourguignon goes on to say that when the osmolality causes increased water uptake is the place where insects and diseases attack the plant as they are made weaker by this.

i was reading The Fifth Dimension by Peter Senghe many years ago.  it was my introduction to systems theory and i highly recommend it.  He was doing an all day workshop with marketing executives.  for one whole day they wrote up on a board the variables that would influence marketing.  at the end of the day most of the group acknowledged that they would never exhaust the number of factors that could influence marketing.  what senghe was trying to get them to understand is that they would never understand or maybe better control all the variables.  he wanted them to understand the sweet spot (the currently language, i do not believe that he used it).  the sweet spot is the place where the system is open to changing and our job is to learn how to recognize this spot.  when we do this we can take advantage of all the system has to offer.

for this purpose i am saying that i am looking for the sweet spot of where the water
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Charlotte;

There are lots of differences between a tilled an untilled soil, but an untilled one can't magically produce water. One still has to live within the rainfall budgets of a site.

Of course, water consumption of a given set of plants depends on the weather. A field of tomatoes (or anything else) will use less water on a cool cloudy day then on a hot dry one. And if the air is humid, less water will be used by the plants to cool themselves. This is measured by the evapotranspiration rate. Yesterday in Denver, the evapotranspiration rate was .15 of an inch. The day before, it was .18 of an inch. I believe this is measured in a grass field; some crops will transpire more water, some less, under this conditions.

Multicropping is great, but it can't actually produce more water. Similarly with fungi; the water has to come from some place. Trees can draw it up deeper down, etc. But if a sites rainfall amount is being exceeded, and no outside water is moving in, either from groundwater, runoff, or irrigation, then the plants will struggle.

Finally, yes, there can be lots of water stored per acre. My 15 inches of rainfall come to 450,000 gallons in a year per acre, but not all of this is stored at a given time, of course.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Also, looks like Gabe Brown has a ranching and grain growing operation, not vegetables; he gets 17 inches of rain in an average year; and I couldn't find anything on his website about not irrigating. Do you have a source for his unirrigated vegetable operation? I'd be interested in reading about that.
 
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Something to consider is that a dense poluculture as was described may significantly reduce fhe need of any given plant to transpire.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Something to consider is that a dense poluculture as was described may significantly reduce fhe need of any given plant to transpire.



This is correct; and again, I think that it depends on climate to a large degree.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Does anybody have figures for how much water a plant needs for growth vs how much is used cooling leaves to keep photosynthesis going at a give temperature and humidity level?
 
charlotte anthony
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my source for the 30 acres of vegetables that Gabe Brown grew of dry land vegetables  is this video:  
  key to building a healthy soil

it is in the middle somewhere, and the video is so jam packed with transformational concepts that he applies on his 5000 acre ranch (2000 acres where he grows) that it is one of the best videos i have seen.  i also do not like videos as usually they take an hour to say what i can read in 5 minutes, but not this one.
 
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i neeed to say again that someone might have measured water needs for transpiration vs water needs for photosynthesis, but it would only be appropriate for

1) those plants
2) that soil
3) that climate
4) that time of year
5) what was growing nearby

6 to 1000 many other variables.

to be successful farmers or successful transformers of the agriculture paradigm we need to get into nonlinear (systems) thinking.
 
Tyler Ludens
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charlotte anthony wrote:my source for the 30 acres of vegetables that Gabe Brown grew of dry land vegetables  is this video:



I wonder if to emulate that model one needs a large amount of land and seed - we don't know what the yield was per acre?  It could have been very low.

 
charlotte anthony
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also in the same gabe brown video he talks about a person who inspired him by saying that he could grow food with 2 inches of rain or 200 inches of rain.  this person is ademir calegari.  he is doing great things in brazil based on cover crops.
 
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Tyler Ludens wrote:

charlotte anthony wrote:my source for the 30 acres of vegetables that Gabe Brown grew of dry land vegetables  is this video:



I wonder if to emulate that model one needs a large amount of land and seed - we don't know what the yield was per acre?  It could have been very low.


I could be mistaken, but I believe I heard the yields were comparable to conventional agriculture.

It seems what you need is less land and more time (or money if less time) to pound immense reserves of organic matter and communities of soil biota into the ground.
 
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Kyrt Ryder wrote:
I could be mistaken, but I believe I heard the yields were comparable to conventional agriculture.



I find it an extraordinary claim that non-irrigated vegetables equaled the production of irrigated vegetables.
 
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Tyler Ludens wrote:

Kyrt Ryder wrote:
I could be mistaken, but I believe I heard the yields were comparable to conventional agriculture.



I find it an extraordinary claim that non-irrigated vegetables out-produced irrigated vegetables.


I find it pretty extraordinary that science has advanced so far that we can force conventional agriculture to yield comparatively to natural systems (with a species arrangement aimed towards human food)
 
Tyler Ludens
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I would like to see more information about Gabe Brown's yields.  I would like to see more information about the yields of natural systems with a species arrangement aimed towards human food compared to conventional growing.  Especially under low rainfall conditions.



 
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Me too. Hopefully someone here has such information.
 
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It is very frustrating, that almost all information about yields is anecdotal.  We are told that yields of permaculture systems are equal to or higher than yields of conventional growing, but documentation of such yields is rarely presented.
 
charlotte anthony
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it is our goal at terra lingua farm to measure inputs and outputs, in every way and do soil samples, so that we can show industrial farmers how much better our system works, we will be doing this data.  at the moment i do not have the funding to do this.  my version of soil samples is biological activity, but will also take NPK soil samples) i am hoping that next year i will be able to lure an independent agency, or extension agent to come out and help with the monitoring.

i believe  there is a very strong possibility that our yields with 8-14 inches of rain a year will be as good or better than others who irrigate.  this is for the reasons stated above, we are holding the water in the soil with our carbon and microbes.  the plants will be able to set their own water needs.  there may be some serious water hog plants that we cannot grow or we may only grow plants that need very little water.  this all remains to be seen.   our bottom line will be much better as we do not fertilize, use pest control, etc.  and the fact that we can use marginal soils to get these results mean that folks can afford to farm.  

after my trip to india i understand that permaculture (especially permaculture that is continuing all the work the indigenous people of the world have contributed to sustainable and restoration agriculture) has what we need to make industrial farming obsolete, thereby mitigating climate change, ameliorating stravation, reversing desertification etc.  

i however have no actual belief that if i can do it on this farm, someone else can get the same measurements doing the same technics.  they will need to modify for their land.  
 
charlotte anthony
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so gilbert, can you take your 450,000 gallons an acre a year and divide that into weeks and tell me what your plants would get a week if all that water stayed there.  you have some figures about what a plant needs in a week.  the missing link in all of our thinking up until now has been how do we get the water to stay there.  with microbes and carbon we do not do it of course, but we can increase the holding capacity by not discouraging this system.  

we are not looking to  measure how cooperation works.  if 30 plants are growing together  and each of them needs thus amount of water, i believe they can share this.  i do not know the mechanism.

i remember susan mcklintock got a nobel peace prize for her understanding of how corn worked, which transformed genetic theory.  she had a flash in the middle of night and went from their to the measuring part.  if we do not have the insight we cannot figure out how to get the measurements.  recently suzanne simard tested how mycorhizzals shared water and nutrients with each other, including the concept that there are mother trees who direct the whole process.  

 
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charlotte anthony wrote:
the name of the farm in sebastopol is singing frogs farm.  The full article “The Drought Fighter”



An illustration shows irrigation being used.

 
charlotte anthony
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christine, i am not using any off site fertilizers.  i have here on site volcanic ash.  it is down 3 feet, but there are various places where it is on the surface, so this is the only supplement i am using.  i am using it because in the book secrets of the soil, the talked about azomite and all its benefits.  from what i know not, the azomite helps the microbes.  in the secrets of the soil book some folks used large amounts of azomite and others small amounts.  i am choosing small amounts as it is easier and i believe the reason that it works is because it feeds the microbes, so small is good for them.

according to elaine ingham, the roots of your profits, there is everything i need in every soil.  what is available is what soil tests tell us.  what no one besides the soil scientists tell us is that everything that is needed for plant growth happens in every soil when the plants have microbial partners.  i have spent for my 20 acres maybe $500 on EM (effective microorganisms) and soluble mycorhizzals from Fungi Perfecti.)  the going has been slow.  i just finished 6 applications starting in May and am finally seeing results, more resiliency under my feet a lot of weeds growing with some of the seeds i planted just now coming up.   it was very discouraging all these months without the seeds starting and no change in the soil structure at all.  the microbes have always worked before, so i perservered.  i attribute the weeds to increased carbon due to microbial activity in the soil.  there are 80 acres of rye grass here at this farm similar to the 20 i am using.  none of them have the weeds that i have.  weeds are just fine with me, i am only growing cover crops for my food forest.  someone thought i might get better results with the korean natural farming method to make the microbes on site.  elaine ingham also says on site microbes are better.

i have not done soil tests and really only need to do tests for the soil biology, and i am just doing this to show what we can do by using these innoculations.  for myself i am happy to see the changes in the soil and what the soil will grow.  i had not and am trying to raise the money to do the soil tests via crowd funding.  also am looking for sponsors for this project as making industrial farming obsolete could really serve a lot of people as well as the earth.  i did speak to the extension agent because i was so discouraged about the seeds i planted coming up.  i guess seeds have their own internal mechanism for knowing when their time is right and the time was not right.
 
charlotte anthony
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sorry tyler, singing frog farm does use irrigation.  what it says in the article is that they use i think it was 10 times less irrigation now that their carbon is increased and they are only at 7 or 8%.  we can get to 12^.   i might have remembered incorrectly though.  they have tremendous yields.

i think it is something that everyone should know about getting productivity from no till and these are massive results.
 
charlotte anthony
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christine, you wondered about directions for spreading of the EM and mycorhizzals.  i use around 12 tsp of EM with 12 tsp of mycorhizzals with 12 tblsp of brown sugar per acre.  this is 3 - 4 gallon back pack loads per acre.   it takes me several weeks to spray the whole 20 acres. i only spray in the early morning or in the late evening.  ideally it would be when the sun is not directly shining, but i spray until 8 o'clock.  on a cloudy day i spray any time.   i would use more and hopefully have to do less sprayings but do not think this would as effective.  part of my understanding is that i am facilitating these bacteria and fungi.  just want them to take off on their own so do not want to put in a whole lot, especially as they are not local.

there used o be a yahoo group talking about EM.  that is where i learned how to apply it.  it was just called effective microorganisms.   i buy the mycorhizzals from fungi perfecti in bulk.  

i also started a facebook group called microbe teas, a quick way to regenerate soils, so there is more information there.
 
Tyler Ludens
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charlotte anthony wrote: they have tremendous yields.

i think it is something that everyone should know about getting productivity from no till and these are massive results.



I wish it were possible to get the detailed information about their yields per acre versus conventional farming, as well as detailed information of the amount of water used, etc.  That's what I mean about anecdotal information.  "They have tremendous yields" but we don't know what those yields are, what crops, etc.  
 
Tyler Ludens
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charlotte anthony wrote: it takes me several weeks to spray the whole 20 acres.



So you have no control plot for comparison?  How will you know your yields are higher using the microbes?

 
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Tyler Ludens wrote:

I wonder if to emulate that model one needs a large amount of land and seed - we don't know what the yield was per acre?  It could have been very low.



I highly recommend watching the video. Not only does he give his yield per acre, he gives the comparable yields the conventional farms in his area are producing. He gives you the soil tests and conventional agriculture reccomendations before planting and the yields from those same fields after he ignored those recommendations. He talks about his large home vegetable garden and how he rose to the challenge of raising no till potatoes.

I come away with two basic overall ideas from the whole thing (No bare soil and diversify) but applied in a huge varieties of ways to both plants an animals. He also (part of the dirversify message) gives good succinct explanation of how to develop your own site specific diverse multi season cover crop mix.


Gilbert, there is rain that 'magically' appears beyond the rainfall if you have the correct structure of plants to capture and recirculate that water. I can keep potted plants alive outside which would die if they weren't being dripped upon by the crepe myrtles that I've placed them below. This isn't any extra water than would have fallen in the space, but by being used more than once, it is effectively extra water added to the equation. This is just one example where more plants in the area reduces the total water needed for the number of plants.

I have so much more available water than you (30+ inches) that I wouldn't want to guess what planting scheme would work best in your circumstances. Everything I see about this suggest that at this point it is more of an art than a science. It's too complex a process to be easily studied with thousands of relevant variables changing every few miles. Too many people have successfully made it work for me to dismiss it as magic, it's more of a masterpiece when it works.

On the other hand, you might find use in knowing about the back yard garden beds. Without tending we've had successful cantaloupes, our lima beans are in full bloom and the sweet potatoes are spreading nicely.

For the lima beans and cantaloupe (same bed, cantaloupe on the ground, lima beans trellised overhead) it was just lucky happenstance. We didn't want to mow between the bed and the fence this year and so layered a three food deep pile of wood chips upslope of the bed, I think it's been slowly trickling supplemental water into the bed between rain events. We tend to have heavy downpours that easily saturate such a pile. But in the event of a lighter rain, the wood isn't actually blocking the ground. The cantaloupes were nicely productive and from teh way the limas are flowering, I expect great things of them also.

The sweet potatoes are in our hybrid wicking/hugel beds. We dug a deep trench and piled the top soil on either side. We lined the trench with salvaged pool liner to a depth of 11 inches. Then we filled it with wood chips it to level of the surrounding soil. When it rains that mulched path down the middle of the beds feels like walking on a raft, but we emptied a 500 gallon cistern (needed cleaning) into the wood chips at the end of last summer and nothing trickled out the other end. This bed holds a huge amount of water safe from the sun, the wind, and wandering mosquitos. The only time we water that bed is if we need surface moisture to start seeds. As a further benefit, most weeds don't get enough surface moisture to germinate.
 
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