Roy Pfaltzgraff owns PFZ farms in Haxtun, Colorado. PFZ farms have earned a reputation as one of the top leading regenerative farms in the United States. One of the regenerative techniques that Roy Pfaltzgraff is best known for is soil moisture conservation. For those new to soil moisture conservation, Roy Pfaltzgraff will be providing an overview of the most popular techniques for retaining a healthy amount of moisture. These techniques are often a must for those who live where droughts are common, but they can benefit any farmer looking to lower their energy costs and boost their crop productivity.
The easiest way to understand soil moisture conservation techniques is to understand the goal. Farmers like Roy Pfaltzgraff are looking to reduce the amount of water that soil loses to either evaporation or transpiration. Climate change has made it so more areas of the country are going through rain droughts for an extended period of time or the agriculture industry is losing access to local groundwater resources. When soil moisture conservation tips are practical, less water is needed to irrigate farmlands and dryland farming can survive the extremes farmers are seeing.
Most successful conservation techniques start with deciding on a way to cover the soil and limit its direct exposure to the sun. This is especially true during the hot summer months. When it comes to what farmers use to cover the soil, there are plenty of beneficial options but the best ones are the ones that occur naturally in the fields already. Roy Pfaltzgraff says, it all starts at harvest the previous year, farmers need to make sure they leave as much crop residue standing in the fields as possible. Methods that help with this includes using a stripper header or in row crops not using stock choppers. If the soil is healthy any residue that lays on the ground will be consumed and cycled back into the soil by microbes and insects that are vital to the system. Farmers need to be aware of the traffic patterns in their fields and whenever possible use the same paths through the field. In addition to leaving as much residue as possible standing it also concentrates the compaction in the soil into those paths. By using the same paths every year it allows for less compaction overall and maintaining better cover.
There are also farming practices that increase the amount of water conserved in the soil, say Roy Pfaltzgraff. For example, Roy Pfaltzgraff typically practices crop rotation, which is simply planting different crops during different seasons. Crop rotation is known to enhance soil structure, which increases its ability to retain water. Another great benefit of crop rotation is that it can lessen the likelihood of pests and diseases. The farming methods that farmer use has a major impact on moisture retention. Using tillage for weed control is very detrimental in a number of ways. First, it destroys the crop residue that shields the soil from the sun and wind. It also destroys organic matter in the soil which lowers the amount of moisture the soil can absorb and retain during dry periods. Roy Pfaltzgraff notes, in addition tillage breaks down the soil structure so it cannot absorb moisture when it returns and it causes runoff and further soil erosion.
While many only consider the conservation of water as an environmental benefit of these practices, there are actually a few different environmental perks. These methods will also typically help control weed growth and maintain a healthy soil temperature. Crop productivity often sees a major boost when it is planted in healthy soil, which is pivotal to a farm keeping their costs down. Roy Pfaltzgraff notes that the majority of the techniques utilized to conserve water in soil do not require the use of heavy machinery. More than anything implementing the proper techniques comes down to a farmer’s understanding of their soil health. Roy Pfaltzgraff often speaks on this issue to help others in the agriculture industry retain water in their soil, so they too can enjoy the many benefits.