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Smart water use on your farm or ranch (Agriculture)

 Smart water use on your farm or ranch

     ON A STEEP FARM HILLSIDE WHERE HIS PARENTS HAD previously grown hay, Tim Gieseke planted black walnut trees. While he expects to harvest valuable created earthen curbs timber in two decades or more, Gieseke grows hay 9-inch-wide, 30-inch-deep holes between the rows and will harvest walnuts and graze tree. The swiss-cheese a flock of sheep in the grove. The enterprises, which make great use of a 15-percent slope that otherwise would have to be left in grass or forage, also feature an important,water-saving innovation to capture rainfall.

     Gieseke designed his agroforestry system to maxi-mize water availability. Walnut trees need 35 inches of water a year to thrive, but Gieseke’s farm in southern Minnesota averages 30 inches of precipitation annually. To make up the difference, Gieseke, with help from a Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) farmer grant, constructed a contour system featuring irrigation holes that trap hillside runoff and convey it to the tree roots.
    
     “The hillside obviously sheds water, and quickly in the spring when we have snow melt,” said Gieseke, who farms 50 acres. “We wanted to capture that runoff.”
 
     He planted tree seedlings in rows 20 feet apart, created earthen curbs on the contour and augured 9-inch-wide, 30-inch-deep holes between every other tree. The swiss-cheese infiltration system absorbs water from even torrential downpours with minimal runoff.

     “If we get a sudden rain, we probably get all of the moisture into the ground, whereas without it, 90 percent of that would run down the hill,” Gieseke said. In the first three seasons, he has not irrigated the walnut saplings.

      All over the country, and especially in the desert Southwest and semi-arid Plains, farmers and ranchers worry about water. Agriculture accounts for about 85 percent of U.S. water consumption, a reality that contributes to declining ground and surface water quantity and quality. Severe long-term droughts and explosive population growth in dry, previously rural areas compound the problem.

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