Here's a fairly interesting article from the BBC about the use of technology in combating drought in Texas and other arid areas in the world. I say interesting but I don't think that's the right word... I guess mildly disconcerted is how it makes me feel; I can't help but feel that it's wrong to go to such lengths to support, or prop up, monoculture-based agricultural systems.
However, I'm writing this from the comfortably wet country of Wales and, apart from a few heat waves and hosepipe bans, I've never experienced major water shortages so I'm fairly ignorant in regards to growing food in dry environments. Do people think that it's necessary to go to such lengths as described in the article? How badly affected are permacultural systems affected by the drought? We all know about the benefits of building soil but is soil building enough to counteract the problems associated with water shortage as described in the article? Obviously there is rainwater harvesting as well but what happens if you have no rain for a year?
I'm relatively new to permaculture so forgive my ignorance It would be nice to get a few opinions on the subject!
Edit: I'd assume that this more controlled method of determining how much fertilizer to add and delivering more precise amounts of water is much better than the more conventional method of applying excessive (wasteful) amounts. However, the system still seems to be reliant on artificial fertilizers and, combined with monoculturing, this obviously does nothing to help build soil. It looks like they're just compounding their problems in the long term.
"A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in."
Sam wrote: Do people think that it's necessary to go to such lengths as described in the article?
I don't. I would like Texans to be more interested in restoring their watersheds and especially re-establishing prairie. The carrying capacity of the land in my region has been reduced to 1/5 its historic level over the past 30-100 years because of overgrazing and damage to watersheds. Yet our water district committee apparently has no interest in promoting watershed improvement - they simply say "use less water." Nothing about appropriate stocking and grazing management, nothing about earthworks to help flood water infiltrate.
It's very frustrating.
Here on our place we're trying to install some rainwater harvesting earthworks in preparation for the next inevitable flood. As well as being very droughty off and on, this region is one of the flood capitols of North America. Back when this region was prairie, creeks flowed year round and there were many springs. Now most of the creeks and springs have dried up. Widespread land restoration using permaculture principles would make droughts much less severe, in my opinion. And I have a big fat opinion on this subject!
I don't think that the technology is necessary, but it's encouraging to see that the probes they are using detect when the plants actually *need* watering, with the intention of encouraging the plant roots to search out water for themselves.
I'm inclined to see it as a step in the right direction, even if it is a small one and bit off to one side.
Ludi, i'm with you. where i live, it's almost the opposite. 50 inches of rain, still have drought, and people complain about flooding and drought while they drain everything into the rivers and streams and grow monocultures. Hard for people to believe they contribute to their flooding and drought.
I find it ludicrous to look to technology to correct man made natural disasters. Instead of spending thou$ands buying high-tech devices, they need to start correcting the problem at its source. If the soils cannot be made to control the flows of water, and retain it, then cattle will have to be removed from the landscape for a decade or so. Without proper soil/water management, a Saharan type environment will spread as far north as the Dakotas.
Without vast areas of lush prairie grasses growing, and vast swale development, the rains will avoid the region, or just flood away, allowing the heat to consume the remaining water in the ground. Without corrective measures, I believe these conditions will extend into southern Kansas within a decade.
John Polk wrote: If the soils cannot be made to control the flows of water, and retain it, then cattle will have to be removed from the landscape for a decade or so.
Removing livestock alone won't do the job in this region, unfortunately. Instead of prairie grasses regrowing, the land is being overtaken by juniper (called "cedar" here), which used to be controlled by fire. The juniper shades out the grass and allows erosion to occur. Juniper is better than bare earth, but not a solution to our problems.
H Ludi Tyler wrote: Removing livestock alone won't do the job in this region, unfortunately. Instead of prairie grasses regrowing, the land is being overtaken by juniper (called "cedar" here), which used to be controlled by fire. The juniper shades out the grass and allows erosion to occur. Juniper is better than bare earth, but not a solution to our problems.
What a bunch of rubbish. A few choice quotes from the article:
"Water availability is gradually declining. Even 30 years ago we had probably twice as much water as we have now."
It's not the availability that's declined... it's the storage. Thank the Army Corps of Engineers and civil engineers for making sure that every possible drop of fresh water runs down the Mississippi and into the ocean as fast as they can get it there.
Mr Schur is part of the Texas Alliance for Water Conservation. Across 32 sites in two counties, the group is monitoring the rainfall and the water that is pumped, calculating the gross profit margin for every crop.
"What we're trying to do is to come up with ways to conserve water and maximise profits," says Mr Schur.
"We're using all the newest available technology for water management."
There was a time when pivot irrigation was the newest technology... we can see where that led. And of course, everyone knows that profit margins are more important than conservation.
Over-watering an area can also mean using more pesticides and fertilisers than you need to - and when the crop stops absorbing them, the only place left to go is down into the water table.
Not to mention salting of the land, which is inevitable when you irrigate dry lands -- computer controlled or not.
The cost works out at about $1.35 per acre per month, and Mr Moeller plans to reduce that further.
"Our model is to do more of this at ever lower cost so we can penetrate more and more places on the globe.
"My mantra is: let's cover the earth with a green solution and make it a financially-viable no-brainer for the grower."
Just as with modern Western medicine, profits are not found in solutions, but in managed perpetuation of the problem.
Why are we growing thirsty row crops and turning the soil in a place where it doesn't bloody rain? BBC's reporter forgot to ask that, methinks.
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