Conservation Of Moisture
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Eastern and southern farmers have much to gain by close study of the methods employed in the West to conserve moisture in the soil, because water saving is their problem, also. When an abundant, well-distributed supply of rain prevails, good crops follow. This order of things is not the general rule, however, as every crop grower well knows. To meet the situation so a good supply of soil water may be had, even in dry seasons, is possible if diligent attention be given to the land.
Some of our best farmers like dry seasons, even prefer them to wet seasons; enough water is stored away for maximum yields, weeds are not so apt to bother, and the work of planting and cultivating is made easy and inexpensive. The water storage work must be done during months long before water is demanded by growing crops. Fall plowing does much, winter disking carries the work forward, and a big humus supply completes the job.
If land is in tough sod one cannot expect much water to find its way down ; if rolling land is tucked in by a hard, smooth surface layer, water will find the stream with more ease than the reservoir down deep in the soil. Consequently if plowing, disking, and mulch making are delayed or minimized, the chances are that the warm winds of spring will lick up water so, fast that the supply can never be fully replenished.
The secret of water control lies with tillage tools. Lands that are to go to spring crops should be broken and furrowed. Any way will do, but the water must be held long enough to soak into the ground. Then the disk harrow will take care of future showers and at the same time will blanket in what has already been sent below. Later on this land can be plowed to good advantage all around. The soil will turn better, the team will do more work and the crops will have more water. It is important that close attention be given this water supply matter. It is especially important with lands frozen during much of the winter, because the greater part of all precipitation is lost to the soil. When better preparation is given the land, the water supply will be regulated, fertilizers will do their work better, micro-organisms will be more active, and, what is more to the point, crop yields will be increased.