Dry-farming in arid land requires cultural practices that maximize water storage in the soil and reduce water loss. I studied agriculture at university in Madrid, but I was not taught how to do that. It is a pity that agricultural education and research in Spain has not paid attention to dry farming. Many years on, I found an interesting book in the public domain: “Dry Farming, A System of Agriculture for Countries under Low Rainfall” by Widtsoe John Andreas (1872-1952), who had extensive experience in dry farming as head of the Utah Agriculture Station.
This book has given me insights into the type of sustainable agriculture that my family has carried out for decades, and has made me understand the rationale behind our agricultural practices. The soil is able to save water for years and keeping the land fallow is the way forward. Primary deep till, and subsequent regular cultivation are the key practices.
In the pictures you can see a one year old orchard two days after a 22 mm rain. This orchard was planted in two different consecutive fields in February 2015. The first (central and left part of the pictures) was a barley field that had been kept fallow since autumn 2012. The second (right part of the picture) was a vineyard that was uprooted in Autumn 2014. As a result, the left part of the young orchard had stored rainfall two years before the right part. As you can clearly see, the left side looks darker because it keeps more water.
My experience with young orchards is that they behave like a fallow for the first three years. That is an advantage because, if you stick to cultivation, your trees will not suffer any water stress despite rain may not come for many months.