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When in drought: the California farmers who don’t water their crops

 
edwin hugel
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http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/may/05/dry-farming-california-drought-wine-crops

“The hardest part about dry farming is actually convincing people it works,” Bucklin says. “But in places like Spain, France and Italy, pretty much everybody dry-farms because it makes better wine.”

“Irrigated vines have roots that live in the top 20 or 30 inches of soil. Dry-farm vines can have root systems as deep as 20 to 30 feet,” Bucklin says.

That is pretty impressive!!

The article in the Guardian also talks about dry-franing quinoa, tomatoes, etc.
 
Simone Gar
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Location: Alberta, zone 3
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Thanks for sharing!
 
Bryant RedHawk
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the Vinters I know have all told me to let my vines struggle, the grapes will be sweeter and so make better wine. So, I have them planted in my poorest soil, on the windy slope just like they told me to.
 
edwin hugel
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:the Vinters I know have all told me to let my vines struggle, the grapes will be sweeter and so make better wine. So, I have them planted in my poorest soil, on the windy slope just like they told me to.


Thanks, this is good to know! We are in a similar climate zone in middle TN with wild muscadines all over the property. They are so much tastier and intense than than the muscadine vineyards we have bought grapes from. Maybe because they have had to compete and struggle in the forest rather than in carefully tended and watered vineyards, I don't know.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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We have muscadine vines in the woods too.
My biggest problem with those is that they are in too much shade to fruit well.
These are wild vines and I may do some air layered cuttings this year or next since I know which ones are male and female.
The muscadines I've tried from our vines tend to be a bit bitter because of the lack of sun, the one vine that is in near full sun is much sweeter tasting.

I did a year of getting to know the professional vinters here. It is amazing how willing they are to share their knowledge about growing vines.
I learned how to set up my little vineyard, type of vines that do best, how to plant the vines, train and prune the vines, best conditions for them and everything else I could think of to ask.
 
edwin hugel
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:We have muscadine vines in the woods too.
My biggest problem with those is that they are in too much shade to fruit well.


I should clarify... our land land was logged, before we bought it 2 years ago, so there is plenty of sun getting in the areas of clearcuts and selective cuts (the poison ivy is loving it too).

I would love to hear how your air layering goes! We have been trying to figure out how to best use the wild vines and propagate them. There are vinters and wineries in our area so I will have to talk to them and see if I can get some regional tips.

 
Bryant RedHawk
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I used to air layer vines for Mills Winery in Sacramento California. The trick is to use enough sphagnum moss so you have a layer 3" thick all the way around the incisions in the bark, use a 6% dusting of rooting hormone (willow water doesn't work super well on grapes) and use a B-12 water to soak the sphagnum before wrapping on the vine. Cuts for grapes are 3" long and I space 4 cuts around the vine equally. Then just check weekly to make sure the sphagnum stays moist but not soaking wet.
 
Rue Barbie
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Location: Coastal Southern California
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Cuts for grapes are 3" long and I space 4 cuts around the vine equally.


Interesting. So you don't do a full girdle, but rather 4 'filet' cuts? Just to cambium layer, or deeper?

Thanks.
 
Marco Banks
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Location: Los Angeles, CA
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Very interesting article.

My question: if you've already established trees with conventional irrigation (as I have), can they be converted to dry-land production? I would imagine that most of my trees are shallow-rooted. I couldn't just shut off the water and expect them to suddenly drop roots deep enough to get themselves through the 8 months or so of completely dry weather.

Has anyone tried this—basically, weening your trees off regular irrigation and making them fend for themselves? I would imagine that there would be significant die-back, if they survived at all. So maybe I need to just slowly reduce the amount of water my trees get over 5 years or so.

Any thoughts?
 
Kyrt Ryder
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Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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I have heard of people gradually weaning their perennials off of their irrigation habit successfully.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Rue Barbie wrote:
Cuts for grapes are 3" long and I space 4 cuts around the vine equally.


Interesting. So you don't do a full girdle, but rather 4 'filet' cuts? Just to cambium layer, or deeper?

Thanks.


Right, no full girdle, a full girdle deprives the branch from getting nutrients, this forces the formation of roots which if they don't grow fast enough will deplete the branch of energy and the branch dies before the roots can form enough to provide nourishment.
If you do want to do the full girdle method you must leave at least 2 strips of the cambium intact so the leaves get nourishment while the branch forms the new root system.
I used to teach both methods but the cut method is easiest for most folks to not mess up.

I slice to the cambium layer, going deeper that that opens the branch to disease issues with out any benefit to the rooting branch.
I usually remove a strip that is 3cm long and 1mm wide, give that wound some rooting hormone (willow water when it will work (most plants), otherwise I use a professional nurseryman's 6% rooting hormone powder).
 
Michael Newby
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Marco Banks wrote:
My question: if you've already established trees with conventional irrigation (as I have), can they be converted to dry-land production? I would imagine that most of my trees are shallow-rooted. I couldn't just shut off the water and expect them to suddenly drop roots deep enough to get themselves through the 8 months or so of completely dry weather.

Has anyone tried this—basically, weening your trees off regular irrigation and making them fend for themselves? I would imagine that there would be significant die-back, if they survived at all. So maybe I need to just slowly reduce the amount of water my trees get over 5 years or so.

Any thoughts?


This can be done! It requires a bit if vigilance on your part but I think it's worth it. I tell my customers to practice what I call 'wilting point watering' - only water your plants when they show the fist signs of stress from lack of water. When you do see these signs do a deep soak watering of the entire root zone plus a few feet. I've found that soaker/dripper hoses run overnight are good for this. It takes time but using this method of watering will cause the plant to put more of its resources into developing roots instead of top growth which will allow the plant to tap into the water that is stored deeper in the earth.

Keep in mind that some trees might still need supplemental irrigation no matter what you do, they just naturally need more water than your climate can naturally provide.
 
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