Dry-Farming California’s Cropland

Refraining from irrigation encourages deep-rooted crops that can better withstand dry spells.

  • Dry farming results in more intensely flavored grapes.
    Photo by Getty Images/Delpixart

While much of California’s cropland is chronically short on water, a drought-friendly growing strategy called “dry farming” is challenging the region’s reliance on aquifers. Old Hill Ranch, the oldest rooted vineyard in its region of California, refrains from irrigation and instead relies only on seasonal rainfall and the soil’s natural ability to retain moisture.

This seemingly counterintuitive farming strategy is creating impressive results. Dry-farmed grapes tend to be smaller and more intensely flavored than irrigated ones, making them well-suited for crafting award-winning wines. Tomatoes, apples, potatoes, and other crops produce similar results when dry-farmed.

The secret to success with dry farming comes from the roots it encourages. Without easy access to irrigated water, plant roots are forced to mine deep into the soil, sometimes more than 30 feet. While overall yields can be compromised, the technique leads to hardier plants that won’t suffer calamity when their water source suddenly disappears.

Dry farming used to be the norm throughout California, especially for wine-grape and almond production. The coastal region of the state is naturally suited to the technique, thanks to its mild weather and rainy winters. The climate ensures deep-rooted crops that withstand dry spells. In a place where 80 percent of its already-scarce water supply is used for agriculture, dry farming provides a smart alternative to irrigation.



Fall 2021!

Put your DIY skills to the test throughout November. We’re mixing full meal recipes in jars, crafting with flowers, backyard composting, cultivating mushrooms, and more!


Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

50 Years of Money-Saving Tips!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS for 50 years and counting, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters