by John A. Widtsoe
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Most important, however, are the temperamental differences in men which make some desirous of giving themselves to the cultivation of a small area of irrigated land under intensive conditions and others to dry-farming under extensive conditions. In fact, it is being observed in the arid region that men, because of their temperamental differences, are gradually separating into the two classes of irrigation-farmers and dry-farmers. The dry-farms of necessity cover much larger areas than the irrigated farms. The land is cheaper and the crops are smaller. The methods to be applied are those of extensive farming. The profits on the investment also appear to be somewhat larger. The very necessity of pitting intellect against the fierceness of the drouth appears to have attracted many-men to the dry-farms. Gradually the certainty of producing crops on dry-farms from season to season is becoming established, and the essential difference between the two kinds of farming in the arid districts will then he the difference between intensive and extensive methods of culture. Men will be attracted to one or other of these systems of agriculture according to their personal inclinations.

The scarcity of water

For the development of a well-rounded commonwealth in an arid region it is, of course, indispensable that irrigation be practiced, for dry-farming of itself will find it difficult to build up populous cities and to supply the great variety of crops demanded by the modern family. In fact, one of the great problems before those engaged in the development of dry-farming at present is the development of homesteads in the dry-farms. A homestead is possible only where there is a sufficient amount of free water available for household and stock purposes. In the portion of the dry-farm territory where the rainfall approximates twenty inches, this problem is not so very difficult, since ground water may be reached easily. In the drier portions, however, where the rainfall is between ten and fifteen inches, the problem is much more important. The conditions that bring the district under the dry-farm designation imply a scarcity of water. On few dry-farms is water available for the needs of the household and the barns. In the Rocky Mountain states numerous dry-farms have been developed from seven to fifteen miles from the nearest source of water, and the main expense of developing these farms has been the hauling of water to the farms to supply the needs of the men and beasts at work on them. Naturally, it is impossible to establish homesteads on the dry-farms unless at least a small supply of water is available; and dry-farming will never he what it might be unless happy homes can be established upon the farms in the arid regions that grow crops without irrigation. To make a dry-farm homestead possible enough water must be available, first of all, to supply the culinary needs of the household. This of itself is not large and, as will be shown hereafter, may in most cases be obtained. However, in order that the family may possess proper comforts, there should be around the homestead trees, and shrubs, and grasses, and the family garden. To secure these things a certain amount of irrigation water is required. It may be added that dry-farms on which such homesteads are found as a result of the existence of a small supply of irrigation water are much more valuable, in case of sale, than equally good farms without the possibility of maintaining homesteads. Moreover, the distinct value of irrigation in producing a large acre yield makes it desirable for the farmer to use all the water at his disposal for irrigation purposes. No available water should be allowed to flow away unused.

Available surface water

The sources of water for dry-farms fall readily into classes: surface waters and subterranean waters. The surface waters, wherever they may be obtained, are generally the most profitable. The simplest method of obtaining water in an irrigated region is from some irrigation canal. In certain districts of the intermountain region where the dry farms lie above the irrigation canals and the irrigated lands below, it is comparatively easy for the farmers to secure a small but sufficient amount of water from the canal by the use of some pumping device that will force the water through the pipes to the homestead. The dry-farm area that may be so supplied by irrigation canals is, however, very limited and is not to be considered seriously in connection with the problem.

A much more important method, especially in the mountainous districts, is the utilization of the springs that occur in great numbers over the whole dry-farm territory. Sometimes these springs are very small indeed, and often, after development by tunneling into the side of the hill, yield only a trifling flow. Yet, when this water is piped to the homestead and allowed to accumulate in small reservoirs or cisterns, it may be amply sufficient for the needs of the family and the live stock, besides having a surplus for the maintenance of the lawn, the shade trees, and the family garden. Many dry-farmers in the intermountain country have piped water seven or eight miles from small springs that were considered practically worthless and thereby have formed the foundations for small village communities.

Of perhaps equal importance with the utilization of the naturally occurring springs is the proper conservation of the flood waters. As has been stated before, arid conditions allow a very large loss of the natural precipitation as run-off. The numerous gullies that characterize so many parts of the dry-farm territory are evidences of the number and vigor of the flood waters. The construction of small reservoirs in proper places for the purpose of catching the flood waters will usually enable the farmer to supply himself with all the water needed for the homestead. Such reservoirs may already be found in great numbers scattered over the whole western America. As dry-farming increases their numbers will also increase.

When neither canals, nor springs, nor flood waters are available for the supply of water, it is yet possible to obtain a limited supply by so arranging the roof gutters on the farm buildings that all the water that falls on the roofs is conducted through the spouts into carefully protected cisterns or reservoirs. A house thirty by thirty feet, the roof of which is so constructed that all that water that falls upon it is carried into a cistern will yield annually under a a rainfall of fifteen inches a maximum amount of water equivalent to about 8800 gallons. Allowing for the unavoidable waste due to evaporation, this will yield enough to supply a household and some live stock with the necessary water. In extreme cases this has been found to be a very satisfactory practice, though it is the one to be resorted to only in case no other method is available.

It is indispensable that some reservoir be provided to hold the surface water that may be obtained until the time it may be needed. The water coming constantly from a spring in summer should be applied to crops only at certain definite seasons of the year. The flood waters usually come at a time when plant growth is not active and irrigation is not needed.

The rainfall also in many districts comes most largely at seasons of no or little plant growth. Reservoirs must, therefore, be provided for the storing of the water until the periods when it is demanded by crops. Cement-lined cisterns are quite common, and in many places cement reservoirs have been found profitable. In other places the occurrence of impervious clay has made possible the establishment and construction of cheap reservoirs. The skillful and permanent construction of reservoirs is a very important subject. Reservoir building should be undertaken only after a careful study of the prevailing conditions and under the advice of the state or government officials having such work in charge. In general, the first cost of small reservoirs is usually somewhat high, but in view of their permanent service and the value of the water to the dry-farm they pay a very handsome interest on the investment. It is always a mistake for the dry-farmer to postpone the construction of a reservoir for the storing of the small quantities of water that he may possess, in order to save a little money. Perhaps the greatest objection to the use of the reservoirs is not their relatively high cost, but the fact that since they are usually small and the water shallow, too large a proportion of the water, even under favorable conditions, is lost by evaporation. It is ordinarily assumed that one half of the water stored in small reservoirs throughout the year is lost by direct evaporation.

Available subterranean water

Where surface waters are not readily available, the subterranean water is of first importance. It is generally known that, underlying the earth's surface at various depths, there is a large quantity of free water. Those living in humid climates often overestimate the amount of water so held in the earth's crust, and it is probably true that those living in arid regions underestimate the quantity of water so found. The fact of the matter seems to be that free water is found everywhere under the earth's surface. Those familiar with the arid West have frequently been surprised by the frequency with which water has been found at comparatively shallow depths in the most desert locations. Various estimates have been made as to the quantity of underlying water. The latest calculation and perhaps the most reliable is that made by Fuller, who, after a careful analysis of the factors involved, concludes that the total free water held in the earth's crust is equivalent to a uniform sheet of water over the entire surface of the earth ninety-six feet in depth. A quantity of water thus held would be equivalent to about one hundredth part of the whole volume of the ocean. Even though the thickness of the water sheet under arid soils is only half this figure there is an amount, if it could be reached, that would make possible the establishment of homesteads over the whole dry-farm territory. One of the main efforts of the day is the determination of the occurrence of the subterranean waters in the dry-farm territory.

Ordinary dug wells frequently reach water at comparatively shallow depths. Over the cultivated Utah deserts water is often found at a depth of twenty-five or thirty feet, though many wells dug to a depth of one hundred and seventy-five and two hundred feet have failed to reach water. It may be remarked in this connection that even where the distance to the water is small, the piped well has been found to be superior to the dug well. Usually, water is obtained in the dry-farm territory by driving pipes to comparatively great depths, ranging from one hundred feet to over one thousand feet. At such depths water is nearly always found. Often the geological conditions are such as to force the water up above the surface as artesian wells, though more often the pressure is simply sufficient to bring the water within easy pumping distance of the surface. In connection with this subject it must be said that many of the subterranean waters of the dry-farm territory are of a saline character. The amount of substances held in solution varies largely, but frequently is far above the limits of safety for the use of man or beast or plants. The dry-farmer who secures a well of this type should, therefore, be careful to have a proper examination made of the constituents of the water before ordinary use is made of it.

Now, as has been said, the utilization of the subterranean waters of the land is one of the living problems of dry-farming. The tracing out of this layer of water is very difficult to accomplish and cannot be done by individuals. It is a work that properly belongs to the state and national government. The state of Utah, which was the pioneer in appropriating money for dry-farm experiments, also led the way in appropriating money for the securing of water for the dry-farms from subterranean sources. The world has been progressing in Utah since 1905, and water has been secured in the most unpromising localities. The most remarkable instance is perhaps the finding of water at a depth of about five hundred and fifty feet in the unusually dry Dog Valley located some fifteen miles west of Nephi.

Pumping water

The use of small quantities of water on the dry-farms carries with it, in most cases, the use of small pumping plants to store and to distribute the water properly. Especially, whenever subterranean sources of water are used and the water pressure is not sufficient to throw the water above the ground, pumping must be resorted to. The pumping of water for agricultural purposes is not at all new. According to Fortier, two hundred thousand acres of land are irrigated with water pumped from driven wells in the state of California alone. Seven hundred and fifty thousand acres are irrigated by pumping in the United States, and Mead states that there are thirteen million acres of land in India which are irrigated by water pumped from subterranean sources. The dry-farmer has a choice among several sources of power for the operation of his pumping plant. In localities where winds are frequent and of sufficient strength windmills furnish cheap and effective power, especially where the lift is not very great. The gasoline engine is in a state of considerable perfection and may be used economically where the price of gasoline is reasonable. Engines using crude oil may be most desirable in the localities where oil wells have been found. As the manufacture of alcohol from the waste products of the farms becomes established, the alcohol-burning engine could become a very important one. Over nearly the whole of the dry-farm territory coal is found in large quantities, and the steam engine fed by coal is an important factor in the pumping of water for irrigation purposes. Further, in the mountainous part of the dry-farm territory water Power is very abundant. Only the smallest fraction of it has as yet been harnessed for the generation of the electric current. As electric generation increases, it should be comparatively easy for the farmer to secure sufficient electric power to run the pump. This has already become an established practice in districts where electric power is available.

During the last few years considerable work has been done to determine the feasibility of raising water for irrigation by pumping. Fortier reports that successful results have been obtained in Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. He declares that a good type of windmill located in a district where the average wind movement is ten miles per hour can lift enough water twenty feet to irrigate five acres of land. Wherever the water is near the surface this should be easy of accomplishment. Vernon, Lovett, and Scott, who worked under New Mexico conditions, have reported that crops can be produced profitably by the use of water raised to the surface for irrigation. Fleming and Stoneking, who conducted very careful experiments on the subject in New Mexico, found that the cost of raising through one foot a quantity of water corresponding to a depth of one foot over one acre of land varied from a cent and an eighth to nearly twenty-nine cents, with an average of a little more than ten cents. This means that the cost of raising enough water to cover one acre to a depth of one foot through a distance of forty feet would average $4.36. This includes not only the cost of the fuel and supervision of the pump but the actual deterioration of the plant. Smith investigated the same problem under Arizona conditions and found that it cost approximately seventeen cents to raise one acre foot of water to a height of one foot. A very elaborate investigation of this nature was conducted in California by Le Conte and Tait. They studied a large number of pumping plants in actual operation under California conditions, and determined that the total cost of raising one acre foot of water one foot was, for gasoline power, four cents and upward; for electric power, seven to sixteen cents, and for steam, four cents and upward. Mead has reported observations on seventy-two windmills near Garden City, Kansas, which irrigated from one fourth to seven acres each at a cost of seventy-five cents to $6 per acre. All in all, these results justify the belief that water may be raised profitably by pumping for the purpose of irrigating crops. When the very great value of a little water on a dry-farm is considered, the figures here given do not seem at all excessive. It must be remarked again that a reservoir of some sort is practically indispensable in connection with a pumping plant if the irrigation water is to be used in the best way.

The use of small quantities of water in irrigation

Now, it is undoubtedly true that the acre cost of water on dry-farms, where pumping plants or similar devices must be used with expensive reservoirs, is much higher than when water is obtained from gravity canals. It is, therefore, important that the costly water so obtained be used in the most economical manner. This is doubly important in view of the fact that the water supply obtained on dry-farms is always small and insufficient for all that the farmer would like to do. Indeed, the profit in storing and pumping water rests largely upon the economical application of water to crops. This necessitates the statement of one of the first principles of scientific irrigation practices, namely, that the yield of a crop under irrigation is not proportional to the amount of water applied in the form of irrigation water. In other words, the water stored in the soil by the natural precipitation and the water that falls during the spring and summer can either mature a small crop or bring a crop near maturity. A small amount of water added in the form of irrigation water at the right time will usually complete the work and produce a well-matured crop of large yield. Irrigation should only be supplemented to the natural precipitation. As more irrigation water is added, the increase in yield becomes smaller in proportion to the amount of water employed. This is clearly shown by the following table, which is taken from some of the irrigation experiments carried on at the Utah Station:—

Effect of Varying Irrigations on Crop Yields Per Acre

Depth of Water Wheat Corn Alfalfa Potatoes Sugar Beets Applied (Inches) (Bushels) (Bushels) (Pounds) (Bushels) (Tons) 5.0 40 194 25 7.5 41 65 10.0 41 80 213 26 15.0 46 78 253 27 25.0 49 77 10,056 258 35.0 55 9,142 291 26 50 60 84 13,061

The soil was a typical arid soil of great depth and had been so cultivated as to contain a large quantity of the natural precipitation. The first five inches of water added to the precipitation already stored in the soil produced forty bushels of wheat. Doubling this amount of irrigation water produced only forty-one bushels of wheat. Even with an irrigation of fifty inches, or ten times that which produced forty bushels, only sixty bushels of wheat, or an increase of one half, were produced. A similar variation may be observed in the case of the other crops. The first lesson to be drawn from this important principle of irrigation is that if the soil be so treated as to contain at planting time the largest proportion of the natural precipitation,—that is, if the ordinary methods of dry-farming be employed,—crops will be produced with a very small amount of irrigation water. Secondly, it follows that it would be a great deal better for the farmer who raises wheat, for instance, to cover ten acres of land with water to a depth of five inches than to cover one acre to a depth of fifty inches, for in the former case four hundred bushels and in the second sixty bushels of wheat would be produced. The farmer who desires to utilize in the most economical manner the small amount of water at his disposal must prepare the land according to dry-farm methods and then must spread the water at his disposal over a larger area of land. The land must be plowed in the fall if the conditions permit, and fallowing should be practiced wherever possible. If the farmer does not wish to fallow his family garden he can achieve equally good results by planting the rows twice as far apart as is ordinarily the case and by bringing the irrigation furrows near the rows of plants. Then, to make the best use of the water, he must carefully cover the irrigation furrow with dry dirt immediately after the water has been applied and keep the whole surface well stirred so that evaporation will be reduced to a minimum. The beginning of irrigation wisdom is always the storage of the natural precipitation. When that is done correctly, it is really remarkable how far a small amount of irrigation water may be made to go.

Under conditions of water scarcity it is often found profitable to carry water to the garden in cement or iron pipes so that no water may be lost by seepage or evaporation during the conveyance of the water from the reservoir to the garden. It is also often desirable to convey water to plants through pipes laid under the ground, perforated at various intervals to allow the water to escape and soak into the soil in the neighborhood of the plant roots. All such refined methods of irrigation should be carefully investigated by the who wants the largest results from his limited water supply. Though such methods may seem cumbersome and expensive at first, yet they will be found, if properly arranged, to be almost automatic in their operation and also very profitable.

Forbes has reported a most interesting experiment dealing with the economical use of a small water supply under the long season and intense water dissipating conditions of Arizona. The source of supply was a well, 90 feet deep. A 3 by 14-inch pump cylinder operated by a 12-foot geared windmill lifted the water into a 5000-gallon storage reservoir standing on a support 18 feet high. The water was conveyed from this reservoir through black iron pipes buried 1 or 2 feet from the trees to be watered. Small holes in the pipe 332 inch in diameter allowed the water to escape at desirable intervals. This irrigation plant was under expert observation for considerable time, and it was found to furnish sufficient water for domestic use for one household, and irrigated in addition 61 olive trees, 2 cottonwoods, 8 pepper trees, 1 date palm, 19 pomegranates, 4 grapevines, 1 fig tree, 9 eucalyptus trees, 1 ash, and 13 miscellancous, making a total of 87 useful trees, mainly fruit-bearing, and 32 vines and bushes. (See Fig. 95.) If such a result can be obtained with a windmill and with water ninety feet below the surface under the arid conditions of Arizona, there should be little difficulty in securing sufficient water over the larger portions of the dry-farm territory to make possible beautiful homesteads.

The dry-farmer should carefully avoid the temptation to decry irrigation practices. Irrigation and dry-farming of necessity must go hand in hand in the development of the great arid regions of the world. Neither can well stand alone in the building of great commonwealths on the deserts of the earth.



The great nations of antiquity lived and prospered in arid and semiarid countries. In the more or less rainless regions of China, Mesopotamia, Palestine, Egypt, Mexico, and Peru, the greatest cities and the mightiest peoples flourished in ancient days. Of the great civilizations of history only that of Europe has rooted in a humid climate. As Hilgard has suggested, history teaches that a high civilization goes hand in hand with a soil that thirsts for water. To-day, current events point to the arid and semiarid regions as the chief dependence of our modern civilization.

In view of these facts it may be inferred that dry-farming is an ancient practice. It is improbable that intelligent men and women could live in Mesopotamia, for example, for thousands of years without discovering methods whereby the fertile soils could be made to produce crops in a small degree at least without irrigation. True, the low development of implements for soil culture makes it fairly certain that dry-farming in those days was practiced only with infinite labor and patience; and that the great ancient nations found it much easier to construct great irrigation systems which would make crops certain with a minimum of soil tillage, than so thoroughly to till the soil with imperfect implements as to produce certain yields without irrigation. Thus is explained the fact that the historians of antiquity speak at length of the wonderful irrigation systems, but refer to other forms of agriculture in a most casual manner. While the absence of agricultural machinery makes it very doubtful whether dry-farming was practiced extensively in olden days, yet there can be little doubt of the high antiquity of the practice.

Kearney quotes Tunis as an example of the possible extent of dry-farming in early historical days. Tunis is under an average rainfall of about nine inches, and there are no evidences of irrigation having been practiced there, yet at El Djem are the ruins of an amphitheater large enough to accommodate sixty thousand persons, and in an area of one hundred square miles there were fifteen towns and forty-five villages. The country, therefore, must have been densely populated. In the seventh century, according to the Roman records, there were two million five hundred thousand acres of olive trees growing in Tunis and cultivated without irrigation. That these stupendous groves yielded well is indicated by the statement that, under the Caesar's Tunis was taxed three hundred thousand gallons of olive oil annually. The production of oil was so great that from one town it was piped to the nearest shipping port. This historical fact is borne out by the present revival of olive culture in Tunis, mentioned in Chapter XII.

Moreover, many of the primitive peoples of to-day, the Chinese, Hindus, Mexicans, and the American Indians, are cultivating large areas of land by dry-farm methods, often highly perfected, which have been developed generations ago, and have been handed down to the present day. Martin relates that the Tarahumari Indians of northern Chihuahua, who are among the most thriving aboriginal tribes of northern Mexico, till the soil by dry-farm methods and succeed in raising annually large quantities of corn and other crops. A crop failure among them is very uncommon. The early American explorers, especially the Catholic fathers, found occasional tribes in various parts of America cultivating the soil successfully without irrigation. All this points to the high antiquity of agriculture without irrigation in arid and semiarid countries.

Modern dry-farming in the United States

The honor of having originated modern dry-farming belongs to the people of Utah. On July 24th, 1847, Brigham Young with his band of pioneers entered Great Salt Lake Valley, and on that day ground was plowed, potatoes planted, and a tiny stream of water led from City Creek to cover this first farm. The early endeavors of the Utah pioneers were devoted almost wholly to the construction of irrigation systems. The parched desert ground appeared so different from the moist soils of Illinois and Iowa, which the pioneers had cultivated, as to make it seem impossible to produce crops without irrigation. Still, as time wore on, inquiring minds considered the possibility of growing crops without irrigation; and occasionally when a farmer was deprived of his supply of irrigation water through the breaking of a canal or reservoir it was noticed by the community that in spite of the intense heat the plants grew and produced small yields.

Gradually the conviction grew upon the Utah pioneers that farming without irrigation was not an impossibility; but the small population were kept so busy with their small irrigated farms that no serious attempts at dry-farming were made during the first seven or eight years. The publications of those days indicate that dry-farming must have been practiced occasionally as early as 1854 or 1855.

About 1863 the first dry-farm experiment of any consequence occurred in Utah. A number of emigrants of Scandinavian descent had settled in what is now known as Bear River City, and had turned upon their farms the alkali water of Malad Creek, and naturally the crops failed. In desperation the starving settlers plowed up the sagebrush land, planted grain, and awaited results. To their surprise, fair yields of grain were obtained, and since that day dry-farming has been an established practice in that portion of the Great Salt Lake Valley. A year or two later, Christopher Layton, a pioneer who helped to build both Utah and Arizona, plowed up land on the famous Sand Ridge between Salt Lake City and Ogden and demonstrated that dry-farm wheat could be grown successfully on the deep sandy soil which the pioneers had held to be worthless for agricultural purposes. Since that day the Sand Ridge has been famous as a dry-farm district, and Major J. W. Powell, who saw the ripened fields of grain in the hot dry sand, was moved upon to make special mention of them in his volume on the "Arid Lands of Utah," published in 1879.

About this time, perhaps a year or two later, Joshua Salisbury and George L. Farrell began dry-farm experiments in the famous Cache Valley, one hundred miles north of Salt Lake City. After some years of experimentation, with numerous failures these and other pioneers established the practice of dry-farming in Cache Valley, which at present is one of the most famous dry-farm sections in the United States. In Tooele County, Just south of Salt Lake City, dry-farming was practiced in 1877—how much earlier is not known. In the northern Utah counties dry-farming assumed proportions of consequence only in the later '70's and early '80's. During the '80's it became a thoroughly established and extensive business practice in the northern part of the state.

California, which was settled soon after Utah, began dry-farm experiments a little later than Utah. The available information indicates that the first farming without irrigation in California began in the districts of somewhat high precipitation. As the population increased, the practice was pushed away from the mountains towards the regions of more limited rainfall. According to Hilgard, successful dry-farming on an extensive scale has been practiced in California since about 1868. Olin reports that moisture-saving methods were used on the Californian farms as early as 1861. Certainly, California was a close second in originating dry-farming.

The Columbia Basin was settled by Mareus Whitman near Walla Walla in 1836, but farming did not gain much headway until the railroad pushed through the great Northwest about 1880. Those familiar with the history of the state of Washington declare that dry-farming was in successful operation in isolated districts in the late '70's. By 1890 it was a well-established practice, but received a serious setback by the financial panic of 1892-1893. Really successful and extensive dry-farming in the Columbia Basin began about 1897. The practice of summer fallow had begun a year or two before. It is interesting to note that both in California and Washington there are districts in which dry-farming has been practiced successfully under a precipitation of about ten inches whereas in Utah the limit has been more nearly twelve inches.

In the Great Plains area the history of dry-farming Is hopelessly lost in the greater history of the development of the eastern and more humid parts of that section of the country. The great influx of settlers on the western slope of the Great Plains area occurred in the early '80's and overflowed into eastern Colorado and Wyoming a few years later. The settlers of this region brought with them the methods of humid agriculture and because of the relatively high precipitation were not forced into the careful methods of moisture conservation that had been forced upon Utah, California, and the Columbia Basin. Consequently, more failures in dry-farming are reported from those early days in the Great Plains area than from the drier sections of the far West Dry-farming was practiced very successfully in the Great Plains area during the later '80's. According to Payne, the crops of 1889 were very good; in 1890, less so; in 1891, better; in 1892 such immense crops were raised that the settlers spoke of the section as God's country; in 1893, there was a partial failure, and in 1894 the famous complete failure, which was followed in 1895 by a partial failure. Since that time fair crops have been produced annually. The dry years of 1893-1895 drove most of the discouraged settlers back to humid sections and delayed, by many years, the settlement and development of the western side of the Great Plains area. That these failures and discouragements were due almost entirely to improper methods of soil culture is very evident to the present day student of dry-farming. In fact, from the very heart of the section which was abandoned in 1893-1895 come reliable records, dating back to 1886, which show successful crop production every year. The famous Indian Head experimental farm of Saskatchewan, at the north end of the Great Plains area, has an unbroken record of good crop yields from 1888, and the early '90's were quite as dry there as farther south. However, in spite of the vicissitudes of the section, dry-farming has taken a firm hold upon the Great Plains area and is now a well-established practice.

The curious thing about the development of dry-farming in Utah, California, Washington, and the Great Plains is that these four sections appear to have originated dry-farming independently of each other. True, there was considerable communication from 1849 onward between Utah and California, and there is a possibility that some of the many Utah settlers who located in California brought with them accounts of the methods of dry-farming as practiced in Utah. This, however, cannot be authenticated. It is very unlikely that the farmers of Washington learned dry-farming from their California or Utah neighbors, for until 1880 communication between Washington and the colonies in California and Utah was very difficult, though, of course, there was always the possibility of accounts of agricultural methods being carried from place to place by the moving emigrants. It is fairly certain that the Great Plains area did not draw upon the far West for dry-farm methods. The climatic conditions are considerably different and the Great Plains people always considered themselves as living in a very humid country as compared with the states of the far West. It may be concluded, therefore, that there were four independent pioneers in dry-farming in United States. Moreover, hundreds, probably thousands, of individual farmers over the semiarid region have practiced dry-farming thirty to fifty years with methods by themselves.

Although these different dry-farm sections were developed independently, yet the methods which they have finally adopted are practically identical and include deep plowing, unless the subsoil is very lifeless; fall plowing; the planting of fall grain wherever fall plowing is possible; and clean summer fallowing. About 1895 the word began to pass from mouth to mouth that probably nearly all the lands in the great arid and semiarid sections of the United States could be made to produce profitable crops without irrigation. At first it was merely a whisper; then it was talked aloud, and before long became the great topic of conversation among the thousands who love the West and wish for its development. Soon it became a National subject of discussion. Immediately after the close of the nineteenth century the new awakening had been accomplished and dry-farming was moving onward to conquer the waste places of the earth.

H. W. Campbell

The history of the new awakening in dry-farming cannot well be written without a brief account of the work of H. W. Campbell who, in the public mind, has become intimately identified with the dry-farm movement. H. W. Campbell came from Vermont to northern South Dakota in 1879, where in 1882 he harvested a banner crop,—twelve thousand bushels of wheat from three hundred acres. In 1883, on the same farm he failed completely. This experience led him to a study of the conditions under which wheat and other crops may be produced in the Great Plains area. A natural love for investigation and a dogged persistence have led him to give his life to a study of the agricultural problems of the Great Plains area. He admits that his direct inspiration came from the work of Jethro Tull, who labored two hundred years ago, and his disciples. He conceived early the idea that if the soil were packed near the bottom of the plow furrow, the moisture would be retained better and greater crop certainty would result. For this purpose the first subsurface packer was invented in 1885. Later, about 1895, when his ideas had crystallized into theories, he appeared as the publisher of Campbell's "Soil Culture and Farm Journal." One page of each issue was devoted to a succinct statement of the "Campbell Method." It was in 1898 that the doctrine of summer tillage was begun to be investigated by him.

In view of the crop failures of the early '90's and the gradual dry-farm awakening of the later '90's, Campbell's work was received with much interest. He soon became identified with the efforts of the railroads to maintain demonstration farms for the benefit of intending settlers. While Campbell has long been in the service of the railroads of the semiarid region, yet it should be said in all fairness that the railroads and Mr. Campbell have had for their primary object the determination of methods whereby the farmers could be made sure of successful crops.

Mr. Campbell's doctrines of soil culture, based on his accumulated experience, are presented in Campbell's "Soil Culture Manual," the first edition of which appeared about 1904 and the latest edition, considerably extended, was published in 1907. The 1907 manual is the latest official word by Mr. Campbell on the principles and methods of the "Campbell system." The essential features of the system may be summarized as follows: The storage of water in the soil is imperative for the production of crops in dry years. This may be accomplished by proper tillage. Disk the land immediately after harvest; follow as soon as possible with the plow; follow the plow with the subsurface packer; and follow the packer with the smoothing harrow. Disk the land again as early as possible in the spring and stir the soil deeply and carefully after every rain. Sow thinly in the fall with a drill. If the grain is too thick in the spring, harrow it out. To make sure of a crop, the land should be "summer tilled," which means that clean summer fallow should be practiced every other year, or as often as may be necessary.

These methods, with the exception of the subsurface packing, are sound and in harmony with the experience of the great dry-farm sections and with the principles that are being developed by scientific investigation. The "Campbell system" as it stands to-day is not the system first advocated by him. For instance, in the beginning of his work he advocated sowing grain in April and in rows so far apart that spring tooth harrows could be used for cultivating between the rows. This method, though successful in conserving moisture, is too expensive and is therefore superseded by the present methods. Moreover, his farm paper of 1896, containing a full statement of the "Campbell method," makes absolutely no mention of "summer tillage," which is now the very keystone of the system. These and other facts make it evident that Mr. Campbell has very properly modified his methods to harmonize with the best experience, but also invalidate the claim that he is the author of the dry-farm system. A weakness of the "Campbell system" is the continual insistence upon the use of the subsurface packer. As has already been shown, subsurface packing is of questionable value for successful crop production, and if valuable, the results may be much more easily and successfully obtained by the use of the disk and harrow and other similar implements now on the market. Perhaps the one great weakness in the work of Campbell is that he has not explained the principles underlying his practices. His publications only hint at the reasons. H. W. Campbell, however, has done much to popularize the subject of dry-farming and to prepare the way for others. His persistence in his work of gathering facts, writing, and speaking has done much to awaken interest in dry-farming. He has been as "a voice in the wilderness" who has done much to make possible the later and more systematic study of dry-farming. High honor should be shown him for his faith in the semiarid region, for his keen observation, and his persistence in the face of difficulties. He is justly entitled to be ranked as one of the great workers in behalf of the reclamation, without irrigation, of the rainless sections of the world.

The experiment stations

The brave pioneers who fought the relentless dryness of the Great American Desert from the memorable entrance of the Mormon pioneers into the valley of the Great Salt Lake in 1847 were not the only ones engaged in preparing the way for the present day of great agricultural endeavor. Other, though perhaps more indirect, forces were also at work for the future development of the semiarid section. The Morrill Bill of 1862, making it possible for agricultural colleges to be created in the various states and territories, indicated the beginning of a public feeling that modern methods should be applied to the work of the farm. The passage in 1887 of the Hatch Act, creating agricultural experiment stations in all of the states and territories, finally initiated a new agricultural era in the United States. With the passage of this bill, stations for the application of modern science to crop production were for the first time authorized in the regions of limited rainfall, with the exception of the station connected with the University of California, where Hilgard from 1872 had been laboring in the face of great difficulties upon the agricultural problems of the state of California. During the first few years of their existence, the stations were busy finding men and problems. The problems nearest at hand were those that had been attacked by the older stations founded under an abundant rainfall and which could not be of vital interest to arid countries. The western stations soon began to attack their more immediate problems, and it was not long before the question of producing crops without irrigation on the great unirrigated stretches of the West was discussed among the station staffs and plans were projected for a study of the methods of conquering the desert.

The Colorado Station was the first to declare its good intentions in the matter of dry-farming, by inaugurating definite experiments. By the action of the State Legislature of 1893, during the time of the great drouth, a substation was established at Cheyenne Wells, near the west border of the state and within the foothills of the Great Plains area. From the summer of 1894 until 1900 experiments were conducted on this farm. The experiments were not based upon any definite theory of reclamation, and consequently the work consisted largely of the comparison of varieties, when soil treatment was the all-important problem to be investigated. True in 1898, a trial of the "Campbell method" was undertaken. By the time this Station had passed its pioneer period and was ready to enter upon more systematic investigation, it was closed. Bulletin 59 of the Colorado Station, published in 1900 by J. E. Payne, gives a summary of observations made on the Cheyenne Wells substation during seven years. This bulletin is the first to deal primarily with the experimental work relating to dry-farming in the Great Plains area. It does not propose or outline any system of reclamation. Several later publications of the Colorado Station deal with the problems peculiar to the Great Plains.

At the Utah Station the possible conquest of the sagebrush deserts of the Great Basin without irrigation was a topic of common conversation during the years 1894 and 1895. In 1896 plans were presented for experiments on the principles of dry-farming. Four years later these plans were carried into effect. In the summer of 1901, the author and L. A. Merrill investigated carefully the practices of the dry-farms of the state. On the basis of these observations and by the use of the established principles of the relation of water to soils and plants, a theory of dry-farming was worked out which was published in Bulletin 75 of the Utah Station in January, 1902. This is probably the first systematic presentation of the principles of dry-farming. A year later the Legislature of the state of Utah made provision for the establishment and maintenance of six experimental dry-farms to investigate in different parts of the state the possibility of dry-farming and the principles underlying the art. These stations, which are still maintained, have done much to stimulate the growth of dry-farming in Utah. The credit of first undertaking and maintaining systematic experimental work in behalf of dry-farming should be assigned to the state of Utah. Since dry-farm experiments began in Utah in 1901, the subject has been a leading one in the Station and the College. A large number of men trained at the Utah Station and College have gone out as investigators of dry-farming under state and Federal direction.

The other experiment stations in the arid and semi-arid region were not slow to take up the work for their respective states. Fortier and Linfield, who had spent a number of years in Utah and had become somewhat familiar with the dry-farm practices of that state, initiated dry-farm investigations in Montana, which have been prosecuted with great vigor since that time. Vernon, under the direction of Foster, who had spent four years in Utah as Director of the Utah Station, initiated the work in New Mexico. In Wyoming the experimental study of dry-farm lands began by the private enterprise of H. B. Henderson and his associates. Later V. T. Cooke was placed in charge of the work under state auspices, and the demonstration of the feasibility of dry-farming in Wyoming has been going on since about 1907. Idaho has also recently undertaken dry-farm investigations. Nevada, once looked upon as the only state in the Union incapable of producing crops without irrigation, is demonstrating by means of state appropriations that large areas there are suitable for dry-farming. In Arizona, small tracts in this sun-baked state are shown to be suitable for dry-farm lands. The Washington Station is investigating the problems of dry-farming peculiar to the Columbia Basin, and the staff of the Oregon Station is carrying on similar work. In Nebraska, some very important experiments dry-farming are being conducted. In North Dakota there were in 1910 twenty-one dry-farm demonstration farms. In South Dakota, Kansas, and Texas, provisions are similarly made for dry-farm investigations. In fact, up and down the Great Plains area there are stations maintained by the state or Federal government for the purpose of determining the methods under which crops can be produced without irrigation.

At the head of the Great Plains area at Saskatchewan one of the oldest dry-farm stations in America is located (since 1888). In Russia several stations are devoted very largely to the problems of dry land agriculture. To be especially mentioned for the excellence of the work done are the stations at Odessa, Cherson, and Poltava. This last-named Station has been established since 1886.

In connection with the work done by the experiment stations should be mentioned the assistance given by the railroads. Many of the railroads owning land along their respective lines are greatly benefited in the selling of these lands by a knowledge of the methods whereby the lands may be made productive. However, the railroads depend chiefly for their success upon the increased prosperity of the population along their lines and for the purpose of assisting the settlers in the arid West considerable sums have been expended by the railroads in cooperation with the stations for the gathering of information of value in the reclamation of arid lands without irrigation.

It is through the efforts of the experiment stations that the knowledge of the day has been reduced to a science of dry-farming. Every student of the subject admits that much is yet to be learned before the last word has been said concerning the methods of dry-farming in reclaiming the waste places of the earth. The future of dry-farming rests almost wholly upon the energy and intelligence with which the experiment stations in this and other countries of the world shall attack the special problems connected with this branch of agriculture.

The United States Department of Agriculture

The Commissioner of Agriculture of the United States was given a secretaryship in the President's Cabinet in 1889. With this added dignity, new life was given to the department. Under the direction of J. Sterling Morton preliminary work of great importance was done. Upon the appointment of James Wilson as Secretary of Agriculture, the department fairly leaped into a fullness of organization for the investigation of the agricultural problems of the country. From the beginning of its new growth the United States Department of Agriculture has given some thought to the special problems of the semiarid region, especially that part within the Great Plains. Little consideration was at first given to the far West. The first method adopted to assist the farmers of the plains was to find plants with drouth resistant properties. For that purpose explorers were sent over the earth, who returned with great numbers of new plants or varieties of old plants, some of which, such as the durum wheats, have shown themselves of great value in American agriculture. The Bureaus of Plant Industry, Soils, Weather, and Chemistry have all from the first given considerable attention to the problems of the arid region. The Weather Bureau, long established and with perfected methods, has been invaluable in guiding investigators into regions where experiments could be undertaken with some hope of success. The Department of Agriculture was somewhat slow, however, in recognizing dry-farming as a system of agriculture requiring special investigation. The final recognition of the subject came with the appointment, in 1905, of Chilcott as expert in charge of dry-land investigations. At the present time an office of dry-land investigations has been established under the Bureau of Plant Industry, which cooperates with a number of other divisions of the Bureau in the investigation of the conditions and methods of dry-farming. A large number of stations are maintained by the Department over the arid and semiarid area for the purpose of studying special problems, many of which are maintained in connection with the state experiment stations. Nearly all the departmental experts engaged in dry-farm investigation have been drawn from the service of the state stations and in these stations had received their special training for their work. The United States Department of Agriculture has chosen to adopt a strong conservatism in the matter of dry-farming. It may be wise for the Department, as the official head of the agricultural interests of the country, to use extreme care in advocating the settlement of a region in which, in the past, farmers had failed to make a living, yet this conservatism has tended to hinder the advancement of dry-farming and has placed the departmental investigations of dry-farming in point of time behind the pioneer investigations of the subject.

The Dry-farming Congress

As the great dry-farm wave swept over the country, the need was felt on the part of experts and laymen of some means whereby dry-farm ideas from all parts of the country could be exchanged. Private individuals by the thousands and numerous state and governmental stations were working separately and seldom had a chance of comparing notes and discussing problems. A need was felt for some central dry-farm organization. An attempt to fill this need was made by the people of Denver, Colorado, when Governor Jesse F. McDonald of Colorado issued a call for the first Dry-farming Congress to be held in Denver, January 24, 25, and 26, 1907. These dates were those of the annual stock show which had become a permanent institution of Denver and, in fact, some of those who were instrumental in the calling of the Dry-farming Congress thought that it was a good scheme to bring more people to the stock show. To the surprise of many the Dry-farming Congress became the leading feature of the week. Representatives were present from practically all the states interested in dry-farming and from some of the humid states. Utah, the pioneer dry-farm state, was represented by a delegation second in size only to that of Colorado, where the Congress was held. The call for this Congress was inspired, in part at least, by real estate men, who saw in the dry-farm movement an opportunity to relieve themselves of large areas of cheap land at fairly good prices. The Congress proved, however, to be a businesslike meeting which took hold of the questions in earnest, and from the very first made it clear that the real estate agent was not a welcome member unless he came with perfectly honest methods.

The second Dry-farming Congress was held January 22 to 25, 1908, in Salt Lake City, Utah, under the presidency of Fisher Harris. It was even better attended than the first. The proceedings show that it was a Congress at which the dry-farm experts of the country stated their findings. A large exhibit of dry-farm products was held in connection with this Congress, where ocular demonstrations of the possibility of dry-farming were given any doubting Thomas.

The third Dry-farming Congress was held February 23 to 25, 1909, at Cheyenne, Wyoming, under the presidency of Governor W. W. Brooks of Wyoming. An unusually severe snowstorm preceded the Congress, which prevented many from attending, yet the number present exceeded that at any of the preceding Congresses. This Congress was made notable by the number of foreign delegates who had been sent by their respective countries to investigate the methods pursued in America for the reclamation of the arid districts. Among these delegates were representatives from Canada, Australia, The Transvaal, Brazil, and Russia.

The fourth Congress was held October 26 to 28, 1909, in Billings, Montana, under the presidency of Governor Edwin L. Morris of Montana. The uncertain weather of the winter months had led the previous Congress to adopt a time in the autumn as the date of the annual meeting. This Congress became a session at which many of the principles discussed during the three preceding Congresses were crystallized into definite statements and agreed upon by workers from various parts of the country. A number of foreign representatives were present again. The problems of the Northwest and Canada were given special attention. The attendance was larger than at any of the preceding Congresses.

The fifth Congress will be held under the presidency of Hon. F. W. Mondell of Wyoming at Spokane, Washington, during October, 1910. It promises to exceed any preceding Congress in attendance and interest.

The Dry-farming Congress has made itself one of the most important factors in the development of methods for the reclamation of the desert. Its published reports are the most valuable publications dealing with dry-land agriculture. Only simple justice is done when it is stated that the success of the Dry-farming Congress is due in a large measure to the untiring and intelligent efforts of John T. Burns, who is the permanent secretary of the Congress, and who was a member of the first executive committee.

Nearly all the arid and semiarid states have organized state dry-farming congresses. The first of these was the Utah Dry-farming Congress, organized about two months after the first Congress held in Denver. The president is L. A. Merrill, one of the pioneer dry-farm investigators of the Rockies.

Jethro Tull (see frontispiece)

A sketch of the history of dry-farming would be incomplete without a mention of the life and work of Jethro Tull. The agricultural doctrines of this man, interpreted in the light of modern science, are those which underlie modern dry-farming. Jethro Tull was born in Berkshire, England, 1674, and died in 1741. He was a lawyer by profession, but his health was so poor that he could not practice his profession and therefore spent most of his life in the seclusion of a quiet farm. His life work was done in the face of great physical sufferings. In spite of physical infirmities, he produced a system of agriculture which, viewed in the light of our modern knowledge, is little short of marvelous. The chief inspiration of his system came from a visit paid to south of France, where he observed "near Frontignan and Setts, Languedoc" that the vineyards were carefully plowed and tilled in order to produce the largest crops of the best grapes. Upon the basis of this observation he instituted experiments upon his own farm and finally developed his system, which may be summarized as follows: The amount of seed to be used should be proportional to the condition of the land, especially to the moisture that is in it. To make the germination certain, the seed should be sown by drill methods. Tull, as has already been observed, was the inventor of the seed drill which is now a feature of all modern agriculture. Plowing should be done deeply and frequently; two plowings for one crop would do no injury and frequently would result in an increased yield. Finally, as the most important principle of the system, the soil should be cultivated continually, the argument being that by continuous cultivation the fertility of the soil would be increased, the water would be conserved, and as the soil became more fertile less water would be used. To accomplish such cultivation, all crops should be placed in rows rather far apart, so far indeed that a horse carrying a cultivator could walk between them. The horse-hoeing idea of the system became fundamental and gave the name to his famous book, "The Horse Hoeing Husbandry," by Jethro Tull, published in parts from 1731 to 1741. Tull held that the soil between the rows was essentially being fallowed and that the next year the seed could be planted between the rows of the preceding year and in that way the fertility could be maintained almost indefinitely. If this method were not followed, half of the soil could lie fallow every other year and be subjected to continuous cultivation. Weeds consume water and fertility and, therefore, fallowing and all the culture must be perfectly clean. To maintain fertility a rotation of crops should be practiced. Wheat should be the main grain crop; turnips the root crop; and alfalfa a very desirable crop.

It may be observed that these teachings are sound and in harmony with the best knowledge of to-day and that they are the very practices which are now being advocated in all dry-farm sections. This is doubly curious because Tull lived in a humid country. However, it may be mentioned that his farm consisted of a very poor chalk soil, so that the conditions under which he labored were more nearly those of an arid country than could ordinarily be found in a country of abundant rainfall. While the practices of Jethro Tull were in themselves very good and in general can be adopted to-day, yet his interpretation of the principles involved was wrong. In view of the limited knowledge of his day, this was only to be expected. For instance, he believed so thoroughly in the value of cultivation of the soil, that he thought it would take the place of all other methods of maintaining soil-fertility. In fact, he declared distinctly that "tillage is manure," which we are very certain at this time is fallacious. Jethro Tull is one of the great investigators of the world. In recognition of the fact that, though living two hundred years ago in a humid country, he was able to develop the fundamental practices of soil culture now used in dry-farming, the honor has been done his memory of placing his portrait as the frontispiece of this volume.



Locate the dry-farm in a section with an annual precipitation of more than ten inches and, if possible, with small wind movement. One man with four horses and plenty of machinery cannot handle more than from 160 to 200 acres. Farm fewer acres and farm them better.

Select a clay loam soil. Other soils may be equally productive, but are cultivated properly with somewhat more difficulty.

Make sure, with the help of the soil auger, that the soil is of uniform structure to a depth of at least eight feet. If streaks of loose gravel or layers of hardpan are near the surface, water may be lost to the plant roots.

After the land has been cleared and broken let it lie fallow with clean cultivation, for one year. The increase in the first and later crops will pay for the waiting.

Always plow the land early in the fall, unless abundant experience shows that fall plowing is an unwise practice in the locality. Always plow deeply unless the subsoil is infertile, in which case plow a little deeper each year until eight or ten inches are reached Plow at least once for each crop. Spring plowing; if practiced, should be done as early as possible in the season.

Follow the plow, whether in the fall or spring, with the disk and that with the smoothing harrow, if crops are to be sown soon afterward. If the land plowed in the fall is to lie fallow for the winter, leave it in the rough condition, except in localities where there is little or no snow and the winter temperature is high.

Always disk the land in early spring, to prevent evaporation. Follow the disk with the harrow. Harrow, or in some other way stir the surface of the soil after every rain. If crops are on the land, harrow as long as the plants will stand it. If hoed crops, like corn or potatoes, are grown, use the cultivator throughout the season. A deep mulch or dry soil should cover the land as far as possible throughout the summer. Immediately after harvest disk the soil thoroughly.

Destroy weeds as soon as they show themselves. A weedy dry-farm is doomed to failure.

Give the land an occasional rest, that is, a clean summer fallow. Under a rainfall of less than fifteen inches, the land should be summer fallowed every other year; under an annual rainfall of fifteen to twenty inches, the summer fallow should occur every third or fourth year. Where the rainfall comes chiefly in the summer, the summer fallow is less important in ordinary years than where the summers are dry and the winters wet. Only an absolutely clean fallow should be permitted.

The fertility of dry-farm soils must be maintained. Return the manure; plow under green leguminous crops occasionally and practice rotation. On fertile soils plants mature with the least water.

Sow only by the drill method. Wherever possible use fall varieties of crops. Plant deeply—three or four inches for grain. Plant early in the fall, especially if the land has been summer fallowed. Use only about one half as much seed as is recommended for humid-farming.

All the ordinary crops may be grown by dry-farming. Secure seed that has been raised on dry-farms. Look out for new varieties, especially adapted for dry-farming, that may be brought in. Wheat is king in dry-farming; corn a close second. Turkey wheat promises the best.

Stock the dry-farm with the best modern machinery. Dry-farming is possible only because of the modern plow, the disk, the drill seeder, the harvester, the header, and the thresher.

Make a home on the dry-farm. Store the flood waters in a reservoir; or pump the underground waters, for irrigating the family garden. Set out trees, plant flowers, and keep some live stock.

Learn to understand the reasons back of the principles of dry-farming, apply the knowledge vigorously, and the crop cannot fail.

Always farm as if a year of drouth were coming.

Man, by his intelligence, compels the laws of nature to do his bidding, and thus he achieves joy.

"And God blessed them—and God said unto them, Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth, and subdue it."



The Shadow of the Year of Drouth still obscures the hope of many a dry-farmer. From the magazine page and the public platform the prophet of evil, thinking himself a friend of humanity, solemnly warns against the arid region and dry-farming, for the year of drouth, he says, is sure to come again and then will be repeated the disasters of 1893-1895. Beware of the year of drouth. Even successful dry-farmers who have obtained good crops every year for a generation or more are half led to expect a dry year or one so dry that crops will fail in spite of all human effort. The question is continually asked, "Can crop yields reasonably be expected every year, through a succession of dry years, under semiarid conditions, if the best methods of dry-farming be practiced?" In answering this question, it may be said at the very beginning, that when the year of drouth is mentioned in connection with dry-farming, sad reference is always made to the experience on the Great Plains in the early years of the '90's. Now the fact of the matter is, that while the years of 1893,1894, and 1895 were dry years, the only complete failure came in 1894. In spite of the improper methods practiced by the settlers, the willing soil failed to yield a crop only one year. Moreover, it should not be forgotten that hundreds of farmers in the driest section during this dry period, who instinctively or otherwise farmed more nearly right, obtained good crops even in 1894. The simple practice of summer fallowing, had it been practiced the year before, would have insured satisfactory crops in the driest year. Further, the settlers who did not take to their heels upon the arrival of the dry year are still living in large numbers on their homesteads and in numerous instances have accumulated comfortable fortunes from the land which has been held up so long as a warning against settlement beyond a humid climate. The failure of 1894 was due as much to a lack of proper agricultural information and practice as to the occurrence of a dry year.

Next, the statement is carelessly made that the recent success in dry-farming is due to the fact that we are now living in a cycle of wet years, but that as soon as the cycle of dry years strikes the country dry-farming will vanish as a dismal failure. Then, again, the theory is proposed that the climate is permanently changing toward wetness or dryness and the past has no meaning in reading the riddle of the future. It is doubtless true that no man may safely predict the weather for future generations; yet, so far as human knowledge goes, there is no perceptible average change in the climate from period to period within historical time; neither are there protracted dry periods followed by protracted wet periods. The fact is, dry and wet years alternate. A succession of somewhat wet years may alternate with a succession of somewhat dry years, but the average precipitation from decade to decade is very nearly the same. True, there will always be a dry year, that is, the driest year of a series of years, and this is the supposedly fearful and fateful year of drouth. The business of the dry-farmer is always to farm so as to be prepared for this driest year whenever it comes. If this be done, the farmer will always have a crop: in the wet years his crop will be large; in the driest year it will be sufficient to sustain him.

So persistent is the half-expressed fear that this driest year makes it impossible to rely upon dry-farming as a permanent system of agriculture that a search has been made for reliable long records of the production of crops in arid and semiarid regions. Public statements have been made by many perfectly reliable men to the effect that crops have been produced in diverse sections over long periods of years, some as long as thirty-five or forty year's, without one failure having occurred. Most of these statements, however, have been general in their nature and not accompanied by the exact yields from year to year. Only three satisfactory records have been found in a somewhat careful search. Others no doubt exist.

The first record was made by Senator J. G. M. Barnes of Kaysville, Utah. Kaysville is located in the Great Salt Lake Valley, about fifteen miles north of Salt Lake City. The climate is semiarid; the precipitation comes mainly in the winter and early spring; the summers are dry, and the evaporation is large. Senator Barnes purchased ninety acres of land in the spring of 1887 and had it farmed under his own supervision until 1906. He is engaged in commercial enterprises and did not, himself, do any of the work on the farm, but employed men to do the necessary labor. However, he kept a close supervision of the farm and decided upon the practices which should be followed. From seventy-eight to eighty-nine acres were harvested for each crop, with the exception of 1902, when all but about twenty acres was fired by sparks from the passing railroad train. The plowing, harrowing, and weeding were done very carefully. The complete record of the Barnes dry-farm from 1887 to 1905 is shown in the table on the following page.

Record of the Barnes Dry-farm, Salt Lake Valley, Utah (90 acres)

Year Annual Yield When When Rainfall per Acre Plowed Sown (Inches) (Bu.) 1887 11.66 —- May Sept. 1888 13.62 Failure May Sept. 1889 18.46 22.5 —- Volunteer+ 1890 10.38 15.5 —- —- 1891 15.92 Fallow May Fall 1892 14.08 19.3 —- —- 1893 17.35 Fallow May Fall 1894 15.27 26.0 —- —- 1895 11.95 Fallow May Aug. 1896 18.42 22.0 —- —- 1897 16.74 Fallow Spring Fall 1898 16.09 26.0 —- —- 1899 17.57 Fallow May Fall 1900 11.53 23.5 —- —- 1901 16.08 Fallow Spring Fall 1902 11.41 28.9 Sept. Fall 1903 14.62 12.5 —- —- 1904 16.31 Fallow Spring Fall 1905 14.23 25.8 —- —-

+About four acres were sown on stubble.

The first plowing was given the farm in May of 1887, and, with the exception of 1902, the land was invariably plowed in the spring. With fall plowing the yields would undoubtedly have been better. The first sowing was made in the fall of 1887, and fall grain was grown during the whole period of observation. The seed sown in the fall of 1887 came up well, but was winter-killed. This is ascribed by Senator Barnes to the very dry winter, though it is probable that the soil was not sufficiently well stored with moisture to carry the crop through. The farm was plowed again in the spring of 1888, and another crop sown in September of the same year. In the summer of 1889, 22-1/2 bushels of wheat were harvested to the acre. Encouraged by this good crop Mr. Barnes allowed a volunteer crop to grow that fall and the next summer harvested as a result 15-1/2 bushels of wheat to the acre. The table shows that only one crop smaller than this was harvested during the whole period of nineteen years, namely, in 1903, when the same thing was done, and one crop was made to follow another without an intervening fallow period. This observation is an evidence in favor of clean summer fallowing. The largest crop obtained, 28.9 bushels per acre in 1902, was gathered in a year when the next to the lowest rainfall of the whole period occurred, namely, 11.41 inches.

The precipitation varied during the nineteen years from 10.33 inches to 18.46 inches. The variation in yield per acre was considerably less than this, not counting the two crops that were grown immediately after another crop. All in all, the unique record of the Barnes dry-farm shows that through a period of nineteen years, including dry and comparatively wet years, there was absolutely no sign of failure, except in the first year, when probably the soil had not been put in proper condition to support crops. In passing it maybe mentioned that, according to the records furnished by Senator Barnes, the total cost of operating the farm during the nineteen years was $4887.69; the total income was $10,144.83. The difference, $5257.14, is a very fair profit on the investment of $1800—the original cost of the farm.

The Indian Head farm

An equally instructive record is furnished by the experimental farm located at Indian Head in Saskatchewan, Canada, in the northern part of the Great Plains area. According to Alway, the country is in appearance very much like western Nebraska and Kansas; the climate is distinctly arid, and the precipitation comes mainly in the spring and summer. It is the only experimental dry-farm in the Great Plains area with records that go back before the dry years of the early '90's. In 1882 the soil of this farm was broken, and it was farmed continuously until 1888, when it was made an experimental farm under government supervision. The following table shows the yields obtained from the year 1891, when the precipitation records were first kept, to 1909:—


Year Annual Bushels of Wheat Bushels of Wheat Bushels of Wheat Rainfall per Acre per Acre per Acre (Inches)+ Experimental Experimental Motherwell's Farm Farm—Fallow Farm—Stubble 1891 14.03 35 32 30 1892 6.92 28 21 28 1893 10.11 35 22 34 1894 3.90 17 9 24 1895 12.28 41 22 26 1896 10.59 39 29 31 1897 14.62 33 26 35 1898 18.03 32 —- 27 1899 9.44 33 —- 33 1900 11.74 17 5 25 1901 20.22 49 38 51 1902 10.73 38 22 28 1903 15.55 35 15 31 1904 11.96 40 29 35 1905 19.17 42 18 36 1906 13.21 26 13 38 1907 15.03 18 18 15 1908 13.17 29 14 16 1909 13.96 28 15 23

+Snowfall not included. This has varied from 2.3 to 1.3 inches of water.

The annual rainfall shown in the second column does not include the water which fell in the form of snow. According to the records at hand, the annual snow fall varied from 2.3 to 1.3 inches of water, which should be added to the rainfall given in the table. Even with this addition the rainfall shows the district to be of a distinctly semiarid character. It will be observed that the precipitation varied from 3.9 to 20.22 inches, and that during the early '90's several rather dry years occurred. In spite of this large variation good crops have been obtained during the whole period of nineteen years. Not one failure is recorded. The lowest yield of 17 bushels per acre came during the very dry year of 1894 and during the somewhat dry year of 1900. Some of the largest yields were obtained in seasons when the rainfall was only near the average. As a record showing that the year of drouth need not be feared when dry-farming is done right, this table is of very high interest. It may be noted, incidentally, that throughout the whole period wheat following a fallow always yielded higher than wheat following the stubble. For the nineteen years, the difference was as 32.4 bushels is to 20.5 bushels.

The Mother well farm

In the last column of the table are shown the annual yields of wheat obtained on the farm of Commissioner Motherwell of the province of Saskatchewan. This private farm is located some twenty-five miles away from Indian Head, and the rainfall records of the experimental farm are, therefore, only approximately accurate for the Motherwell farm. The results on this farm may well be compared to the Barnes results of Utah, since they were obtained on a private farm. During the period of nineteen years good crops were invariably obtained; even during the very dry year of 1894, a yield of twenty-four bushels of wheat to the acre was obtained. Curiously enough, the lowest yields of fifteen and sixteen bushels to the acre were obtained in 1907 and 1908 when the precipitation was fairly good, and must be ascribed to some other factor than that of precipitation. The record of this farm shows conclusively that with proper farming there is no need to fear the year of drouth.

The Utah drouth of 1910

During the year of 1910 only 2.7 inches of rain fell in Salt Lake City from March 1 to the July harvest, and all of this in March, as against 7.18 inches during the same period the preceding year. In other parts of the state much less rain fell; in fact, in the southern part of the state the last rain fell during the last week of December, 1909. The drouth remained unbroken until long after the wheat harvests. Great fear was expressed that the dry-farms could not survive so protracted a period of drouth. Agents, sent out over the various dry-farm districts, reported late in June that wherever clean summer fallowing had been practiced the crops were in excellent condition; but that wherever careless methods had been practiced, the crops were poor or killed. The reports of the harvest in July of 1910 showed that fully 85 per cent of an average crop was obtained in spite of the protracted drouth wherever the soil came into the spring well stored with moisture, and in many instances full crops were obtained.

Over the whole of the dry-farm territory of the United States similar conditions of drouth occurred. After the harvest, however, every state reported that the crops were well up to the average wherever correct methods of culture had been employed.

These well-authenticated records from true semi-arid districts, covering the two chief types of winter and summer precipitation, prove that the year of drouth, or the driest year in a twenty-year period, does not disturb agricultural conditions seriously in localities where the average annual precipitation is not too low, and where proper cultural methods arc followed. That dry-farming is a system of agricultural practice which requires the application of high skill and intelligence is admitted; that it is precarious is denied. The year of drouth is ordinarily the year in which the man failed to do properly his share of the work.



It is difficult to obtain a correct view of the present status of dry-farming, first, because dry-farm surveys are only beginning to be made and, secondly, because the area under dry-farm cultivation is increasing daily by leaps and bounds. All arid and semiarid parts of the world are reaching out after methods of soil culture whereby profitable crops may be produced without irrigation, and the practice of dry-farming, according to modern methods, is now followed in many diverse countries. The United States undoubtedly leads at present in the area actually under dry-farming, but, in view of the immense dry-farm districts in other parts of the world, it is doubtful if the United States will always maintain its supremacy in dry-farm acreage. The leadership in the development of a science of dry-farming will probably remain with the United States for years, since the numerous experiment stations established for the study of the problems of farming without irrigation have their work well under way, while, with the exception of one or two stations in Russia and Canada, no other countries have experiment stations for the study of dry-farming in full operation. The reports of the Dry-farming Congress furnish practically the only general information as to the status of dry-farming in the states and territories of the United States and in the countries of the world.


In the state of California dry-farming has been firmly established for more than a generation. The chief crop of the California dry-farms is wheat, though the other grains, root crops, and vegetables are also grown without irrigation under a comparatively small rainfall. The chief dry-farm areas are found in the Sacramento and the San Joaquin valleys. In the Sacramento Valley the precipitation is fairly large, but in the San Joaquin Valley it is very small. Some of the most successful dry-farms of California have produced well for a long succession of years under a rainfall of ten inches and less. California offers a splendid example of the great danger that besets all dry-farm sections. For a generation wheat has been produced on the fertile Californian soils without manuring of any kind. As a consequence, the fertility of the soils has been so far depleted that at present it is difficult to obtain paying crops without irrigation on soils that formerly yielded bountifully. The living problem of the dry-farms in California is the restoration of the fertility which has been removed from the soils by unwise cropping. All other dry-farm districts should take to heart this lesson, for, though crops may be produced on fertile soils for one, two, or even three generations without manuring, yet the time will come when plant-food must be added to the soil in return for that which has been removed by the crops. Meanwhile, California offers, also, an excellent example of the possibility of successful dry-farming through long periods and under varying climatic conditions. In the Golden State dry-farming is a fully established practice; it has long since passed the experimental stage.

Columbia River Basin

The Columbia River Basin includes the state of Washington, most of Oregon, the northern and central part of Idaho, western Montana, and extends into British Columbia. It includes the section often called the Inland Empire, which alone covers some one hundred and fifty thousand square miles. The chief dry-farm crop of this region is wheat; in fact, western Washington or the "Palouse country" is famous for its wheat-producing powers. The other grains, potatoes, roots, and vegetables are also grown without irrigation. In the parts of this dry-farm district where the rainfall is the highest, fruits of many kinds and of a high quality are grown without irrigation. It is estimated that at least two million acres are being dry-farmed in this district. Dry-farming is fully established in the Columbia River Basin. One farmer is reported to have raised in one year on his own farm two hundred and fifty thousand bushels of wheat. In one section of the district where the rainfall for the last few years has been only about ten or eleven inches, wheat has been produced successfully. This corroborates the experience of California, that wheat may really be grown in localities where the annual rainfall is not above ten inches. The most modern methods of dry-farming are followed by the farmers of the Columbia River Basin, but little attention has been given to soil-fertility, since soils that have been farmed for a generation still appear to retain their high productive powers. Undoubtedly, however, in this district, as in California, the question of soil-fertility will be an important one in the near future. This is one of the great dry-farm districts of the world.

The Great Basin

The Great Basin includes Nevada, the western half of Utah, a small part of southern Oregon and Idaho, and also a part of Southern California. It is a great interior basin with all its rivers draining into salt lakes or dry sinks. In recent geological times the Great Basin was filled with water, forming the great Lake Bonneville which drained into the Columbia River. In fact, the Great Basin is made up of a series of great valleys, with very level floors, representing the old lake bottom. On the bench lands are seen, in many places, the effects of the wave action of the ancient lake. The chief dry-farm crop of this district is wheat, but the other grains, including corn, are also produced successfully. Other crops have been tried with fair success, but not on a commercial scale. Grapevines have been made to grow quite successfully without irrigation on the bench lands. Several small orchards bearing luscious fruit are growing on the deep soils of the Great Basin without the artificial application of water. Though the first dry-farming by modern peoples was probably practiced in the Great Basin, yet the area at present under cultivation is not large, possibly a little more than four hundred thousand acres.

Dry-farming, however, is well established. There are large areas, especially in Nevada, that receive less than ten inches of rainfall annually, and one of the leading problems before the dry-farmers of this district is the determination of the possibility of producing crops upon such lands without irrigation. On the older dry-farms, which have existed in some cases from forty to fifty years, there are no signs of diminution of soil-fertility. Undoubtedly, however, even under the conditions of extremely high fertility prevailing in the Great Basin, the time will soon come when the dry-farmer must make provision for restoring to the soil some of the fertility taken away by crops. There are millions of acres in the Great Basin yet to be taken up and subjected to the will of the dry-farmer.

Colorado and Rio Grande River Basins

The Colorado and Rio Grande River Basins include Arizona and the western part of New Mexico. The chief dry-farm crops of this dry district are wheat, corn, and beans. Other crops have also been grown in small quantities and with some success. The area suitable for dry-farming in this district has not yet been fully determined and, therefore, the Arizona and New Mexico stations are undertaking dry-farm surveys of their respective states. In spite of the fact that Arizona is generally looked upon as one of the driest states of the Union, dry-farming is making considerable headway there. In New Mexico, five sixths of all the homestead applications during the last year were for dry-farm lands; and, in fact, there are several prosperous communities in New Mexico which are subsisting almost wholly on dry-farming. It is only fair to say, however, that dry-farming is not yet well established in this district, but that the prospects are that the application of scientific principles will soon make it possible to produce profitable crops without irrigation in large parts of the Colorado and Rio Grande River Basins.

The mountain states

This district includes a part of Montana, nearly the whole of Wyoming and Colorado, and part of eastern Idaho. It is located along the backbone of the Rocky Mountains. The farms are located chiefly in valleys and on large rolling table-lands. The chief dry-farm crop is wheat, though the other crops which are grown elsewhere on dry-farms may be grown here also. In Montana there is a very large area of land which has been demonstrated to be well adapted for dry-farm purposes. In Wyoming, especially on the eastern as well as on the far western side, dry-farming has been shown to be successful, but the area covered at the present time is comparatively small. In Idaho, dry-farming is fairly well established. In Colorado, likewise, the practice is very well established and the area is tolerably large. All in all, throughout the mountain states dry-farming may be said to be well established, though there is a great opportunity for the extension of the practice. The sparse population of the western states naturally makes it impossible for more than a small fraction of the land to be properly cultivated.

The Great Plains Area

This area includes parts of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. It is the largest area of dry-farm land under approximately uniform conditions. Its drainage is into the Mississippi, and it covers an area of not less than four hundred thousand square miles. Dry-farm crops grow well over the whole area; in fact, dry-farming is well established in this district. In spite of the failures so widely advertised during the dry season of 1894, the farmers who remained on their farms and since that time have employed modern methods have secured wealth from their labors. The important question before the farmers of this district is that of methods for securing the best results. From the Dakotas to Texas the farmers bear the testimony that wherever the soil has been treated right, according to approved methods, there have been no crop failures.


Dry-farming has been pushed vigorously in the semiarid portions of Canada, and with great success. Dry-farming is now reclaiming large areas of formerly worthless land, especially in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and the adjoining provinces. Dry-farming is comparatively recent in Canada, yet here and there are semiarid localities where crops have been raised without irrigation for upwards of a quarter of a century. In Alberta and other places it has been now practiced successfully for eight or ten years, and it may be said that dry-farming is a well-established practice in the semiarid regions of the Dominion of Canada.


In Mexico, likewise, dry-farming has been tried and found to be successful. The natives of Mexico have practiced farming without irrigation for centuries—and modern methods are now being applied in the zone midway between the extremely dry and the extremely humid portions. The irregular distribution of the precipitation, the late spring and early fall frosts, and the fierce winds combine to make the dry-farm problem somewhat difficult, yet the prospects are that, with government assistance, dry-farming in the near future will become an established practice in Mexico. In the opinion of the best students of Mexico it is the only method of agriculture that can be made to reclaim a very large portion of the country.


Brazil, which is greater in area than the United States, also has a large arid and semiarid territory which can be reclaimed only by dry-farm methods. Through the activity of leading citizens experiments in behalf of the dry-farm movement have already been ordered. The dry-farm district of Brazil receives an annual precipitation of about twenty-five inches, but irregularly distributed and under a tropical sun. In the opinion of those who are familiar with the conditions the methods of dry-farming may be so adapted as to make dry-farming successful in Brazil.


Australia, larger than the continental United States, is vitally interested in dry-farming, for one third of its vast area is under a rainfall of less than ten inches, and another third is under a rainfall of between ten and twenty inches. Two thirds of the area of Australia, if reclaimed at all, must be reclaimed by dry-farming. The realization of this condition has led several Australians to visit the United States for the purpose of learning the methods employed in dry-farming. The reports on dry-farming in America by Surveyor-General Strawbridge and Senator J. H. McColl have done much to initiate a vigorous propaganda in behalf of dry-farming in Australia. Investigation has shown that occasional farmers are found in Australia, as in America, who have discovered for themselves many of the methods of dry-farming and have succeeded in producing crops profitably. Undoubtedly, in time, Australia will be one of the great dry-farming countries of the world.


Up to the present, South Africa only has taken an active interest in the dry-farm movement, due to the enthusiastic labors of Dr. William Macdonald of the Transvaal. The Transvaal has an average annual precipitation of twenty-three inches, with a large district that receives between thirteen and twenty inches. The rain comes in the summer, making the conditions similar to those of the Great Plains. The success of dry-farming has already been practically demonstrated. The question before the Transvaal farmers is the determination of the best application of water conserving methods under the prevailing conditions. Under proper leadership the Transvaal and other portions of Africa will probably join the ranks of the larger dry-farming countries of the world.


More than one fourth of the whole of Russia is so dry as to be reclaimable only by dry-farming. The arid area of southern European Russia has a climate very much like that of the Great Plains. Turkestan and middle Asiatic Russia have a climate more like that of the Great Basin. In a great number of localities in both European and Asiatic Russia dry-farming has been practiced for a number of years. The methods employed have not been of the most refined kind, due, possibly, to the condition of the people constituting the farming class. The government is now becoming interested in the matter and there is no doubt that dry-farming will also be practiced on a very large scale in Russia.


Turkey has also a large area of arid land and, due to American assistance, experiments in dry-farming are being carried on in various parts of the country. It is interesting to learn that the experiments there, up to date, have been eminently successful and that the prospects now are that modern dry-farming will soon be conducted on a large scale in the Ottoman Empire.


The whole of Palestine is essentially arid and semi-arid and dry-farming there has been practiced for centuries. With the application of modern methods it should be more successful than ever before. Dr. Aaronsohn states that the original wild wheat from which the present varieties of wheat have descended has been discovered to be a native of Palestine.


China is also interested in dry-farming. The climate of the drier portions of China is much like that of the Dakotas. Dry-farming there is of high antiquity, though, of course, the methods are not those that have been developed in recent years. Under the influence of the more modern methods dry-farming should spread extensively throughout China and become a great source of profit to the empire. The results of dry-farming in China are among the best.


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