Dry Farming Adaptive Varieties
The Dry Farming Institute (DFI) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that engages growers and communities in collectively adapting to less water. DFI has supported ongoing variety trials in Western Oregon since their inception in 2019 to help identify dry farm-adapted crop varieties and increase awareness and availability of these varieties through collaboration with seed stewards and companies like us (Adaptive Seeds)!
Dry farming is often described as crop production without irrigation during a dry season, usually in a region that receives at least 20 inches (50 cm) of annual rainfall, and utilizes the moisture stored in the soil from the rainy season. It is important to note that this doesn’t simply mean these crops can be planted and then neglected: Dry farming draws upon a suite of practices to efficiently utilize soil moisture to support crop growth during a dry season. Through selection of appropriate locations, crop varieties, and water-wise farming strategies, dry farming can produce nutritious food without relying on irrigation.
- Site Selection – Deep soils with high available water-holding capacity retain more water for crops.
- Variety Selection – Dry farm-adapted or otherwise drought-tolerant crops will perform better.
- Timing – Early planting allows for plants to get established with enough moisture in the topsoil.
- No irrigation – Encourages plant roots to penetrate deeper into the soil to access moisture.
- Lower planting density and diligent weed control – Reduces plant competition for water.
- Shallow cultivation or mulching – Reduces evaporative water loss from the topsoil.
- Microclimate management – Windbreaks and partial shade can reduce drought stress.
- Improve soil health – Increase soil organic matter and minimize soil disturbance to improve soil water-holding capacity.
The varieties listed here on our website as ‘Dry Farming Adaptive’ and others in the DFI’s Dry Farming Seed Directory have been identified as top-performing in terms of yield, quality and flavor in dry farming trials in Western Oregon. These varieties have demonstrated strong potential for adaptation to dry farming, but they will also perform well when irrigated. The climate and soil of some locations may not be conducive to successful dry farming.
While we are all growing in different climates and soils, the strategies and practices that support dry farming in seasonally-arid climates like ours in the maritime Pacific Northwest may be applied in other locations as well to help grow food with less water. Whether you are a gardener trying to use less municipal water, or a farmer seeking to reduce reliance on irrigation, starting with Dry Farming Adaptive crop varieties is an important first step as you experiment with growing food with less water.
For more information and resources around dry farming visit the Dry Farming Institute at dryfarming.org, DFI on Facebook, DFI on Instagram and the Dry Farming Collaborative YouTube Channel. Or, check out this informational hand-out.
To connect with other growers who are dry farming, check out the Dry Farming Collaborative on Facebook.
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