In the 2019 Western SARE Professional + Producer grant OW19-348 entitled, “Enhancing Vegetable Farm Resilience through Dryland Production,” we explored site factors related to dry farming success of tomatoes and winter squash. Important site factors included soil available water-holding capacity, native productivity rating, soil consistency, soil nutrient concentration and pH, and site microclimate. The results suggested that the best sites for dry farming have a high available water-holding capacity, a deep effective rooting depth, a sheltered microclimate (e.g., windbreaks), and adequate soil pH and nutrient concentration. Through participating in the dry farmed trial and receiving a site suitability assessment, ten participants adopted or improved dry farming practices, and were able to locate the optimal dry farming sites on their farms. In addition to the OW19-348 grant, members on this project team have also participated in current and former Western SARE funded projects centered on dry farmed tomato (SW20-917), winter squash (OW16-008), and corn (OW21-366) cultivar evaluation and selection, and have found valuable information about cultivars and breeding lines most suitable for dry farming in the maritime Pacific Northwest.
Now that we gained an improved understanding of site suitability and cultivar selection for dry farming, and observed the positive impacts this knowledge provides producers, we plan to make these educational resources more widely accessible to new and beginning dry farmers, through an ‘Introduction to Dry Farming’ online course and a ‘Dry Farming Accelerator Program’. Combined, these tools will help farmers and agricultural professionals assess the physical and economic feasibility of dry farming on a particular site, identify the most appropriate dry farming locations, improve dry farming performance at a given location, identify varieties that have been successfully dry farmed in the maritime Pacific Northwest, and understand how to make their own dry farmed selections of cultivars.
Project objectives from proposal:
This project team and collaborating producers have conducted over six years of dry farming research on diverse crops in the maritime Pacific Northwest, much of it funded by Western SARE. Though we see first-hand its promise as a valuable climate adaptation tool in the region and beyond, we understand that broad adoption of dry farming practices is fundamentally limited by barriers in knowledge transmission to farmers and agricultural professionals, including basic knowledge about dry farming, its promise and constraints. With any change in farming practice, there is an associated risk, which we plan to mitigate through education. In this project, we will make basic dry farming knowledge openly accessible to producers and agricultural professionals through an online curriculum, as well as extension publications, recorded conference presentations, and social media outreach. In addition to increasing online access to dry farming information, we also plan to engage a cohort of producers new to dry farming through a hands-on, 1-on-1 and collaborative learning opportunity. Specifically, project objectives are to:
- Increase farmer and agricultural professional knowledge of dry farming site suitability and practices with an open access online curriculum.
- Enable a cohort of producers to determine the feasibility of adopting dry farming practices through a year-long ‘Dry Farming Accelerator Program’.
- Engage with the broader farming community with project outcomes via publications, recorded conference presentations, and social media.
- Evaluate changes in farmer knowledge, intentions and practices as a result of Objectives 1-3 to inform future innovations to these educational tools.