[permaculture] Drainage

Steve Bonney steve at sustainableearth.net
Mon Jan 2 22:27:12 EST 2012


I agree about SOM to increase drainage, and also the importance of 
earthworms to drainage.  However, water has to have a place to go. My 
farm receives an average annual rainfall of 46 inches and even in dry 
periods, water does not percolate, even through the A horizon which has 
about 2.5 % SOM. My apple trees are on 18" berms, and when I dug holes 
for more tree planting in early December, water stood in the holes at 
the old surface level upon which I built the berms Standing water 
generates anaerobic conditions. So it is a chicken and egg situation. In 
order to foster the proper biological activity, the soil must have air 
in order to build SOM.

I am the product of a PhD program in soils at a land grant (agricultural 
and mechanical) university, and have always opposed the quick fixes of 
industrial agriculture  -- drainage is one of those. However, in the 
industrial paradigm, drainage systems are implemented to work the land 
during wet periods and to increase yields -- with little or no regard 
for increasing SOM. I know it seems anthropocentric to start moving soil 
around -- Wendall Berry advises against it -- and I view my farm as a 
managed ecosystem, but there seems to be no other options for lowering 
the water table. And I am retaining the water on the farm to grow plants 
and fish, so it doesn't seem to be a blatant violation of holistic 
principles.

Steve
Field and Forest Eco-farm
Indiana USA



On 1/2/2012 5:56 AM, Dieter Brand wrote:
>> Will those with experiences of soil drainage in wet
>> climates please share those experiences, observations and
>> advice.
> Steve,
>
> I’m in a semi-arid climate.  If we do get rain, it is usually between November and April.  In a wet year, some of my fields are water logged for almost 5 months.  In the beginning, I dug some drain channels and even buried drain pipes and gravel.  I will not do that again.  The effect was minimal.  I have very heavy clay soil with little OM.  That is the reason the soil gets water logged.  The only way to remedy the problem is by increasing SOM – at least in may case.  It takes time, but it is the only sustainable way.  A clay soil rich in humus can absorb huge amounts of water without getting water logged.  It also has good drainage.
>
> Dieter
>
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-- 
Steve Bonney
Sustainable Earth
a 501(c)3 not-for-profit membership organization
to promote sustainable farming and food systems



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