Infiltration and Soaking Rain. The human race depends on it.

As at the beginning of January 2016, at least 80 % of Queensland, Australia, is either partially or fully drought declared.

Some parts of the state have been in drought a long time. Farmers and land managers in these areas may feel that there is not much that they can do to change their situation until they receive rain. The at the end of January it began raining over a lot of the state.  Many districts got their best rain they had had for years.

Sadly, regardless of how much rain fell, anywhere between 70 % to 90 % of that rain will not be captured and stored in the soil.  Most of the rain will run off or evaporate, and this is a big, big problem.

I hear people say they need good soaking rain to make things right.  People believe that water will naturally soak into the soil.  What they are not aware of is that the condition of the soil is what determines if and how quickly water will soak in.

For a moment, let’s focus on the grass and savanna lands of Australia that are used for animal production.  Current drought conditions aside, these lands have been managed in a very simple manner since white settlement.  For most of this time, things have been pretty good.  Simply because humans have been using up the health and capacity of the soils.  The bad news is we have just about used up all the stored health and energy.  The land management practices that have been used for over two centuries are no longer working.  Current land management methods are creating plant communities with very little diversity which leads to very large areas of bare soil.   These methods are indeed killing the very resource that sustains all farmers and all communities. That resource is the soil.

Bare soil that has low levels of organic material, capture and retain heat from the sun.  This stored heat continually dries out the soil.  What organic matter is there, oxidizes away.  The soil becomes compacted because it is lifeless.  The capacity to absorb water and sustain microbial life disappears.  All of which makes the soil more likely to remain barren and lifeless.  When the soil is lifeless it will not catch water or grow plants, which makes it pretty hard to make a living from the land, unless you are operating a car part or a tennis court.

The paradox is bare soil is so hard and barren and lifeless that it repels water and yet so unstable that flowing water and blowing wind will erode it.

For the soil to be full of life and be productive, it has to have a tilth or friability that allows water to infiltrate at a reasonably high speed.  Only when water is stored in the soil profile can you as a farmer or gardener or farmer use it to grow plants.  It is that simple.

The good news is, it is simple to change the conditions of your soil. You have to manage what happens at the soil surface.  And management is what we’ll be talking about next time.

Business as usual in agriculture in not working any more.  Landlife Education offers farmers and land managers a different possibility when it comes to making a cash profit from their daily activities. If business as usual if no longer an option for If you are interested in changing your circumstance for the better, the team at Landlife Education is willing to talk with you.