For so long, agricultural producers have been trained to believe they have no control over the weather. But new satellite data reported in The Beef Producer shows that good plant cover means that more water remains in the soil which results in more rain. And the more effective the water cycle is managed, the longer the moisture stays in the soil to grow more plants, reduce erosion and flooding, and mitigate the effects of drought.
Evapotranspiration is the concept that plants transpire moisture which evaporates into the atmosphere. Recent satellite data has meteorologists thinking that as much of half the rain that falls comes from evapotranspiration, not just from the ocean moisture blowing inland. If that is the case, better soil management can potentially result in more rain.
In 2015 NASA launched a satellite called Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) which is able to measure the moisture in the top two inches of the soil. Scientists have now had a chance to analyze that data which suggests that approximately 1/7th of the rain that falls is still present in the top layer of the soil three days after the rainfall, rather than the previously assumed time of a few hours.
While the increased time frame is an interesting statistic, one wonders how much more moisture would be retained on fully covered soil with high organic matter. For example if Field 1 has 1% organic matter and Field 2 has 6% organic matter than Field 2 can potentially capture and retain 100,000 more gallons of water per acre per rain event. There’s going to be a lot more moisture being retained in that top two inches in Field 2 three days later. If there was enough land functioning at that level, how much more rain might then fall, particularly in areas that chronically struggle with drought?
One recent study showed that holistic planned grazing increases organic matter so that the soil contained 130% more soil carbon than land that had been conventionally grazed. Again that change in land health with result in increased water holding capacity. Likewise, farmers like Gabe Brown who are experimenting with polyseeded cover crops and no-till are finding that they can move the organic matter in their soils from 1% to 6%.
To learn more about how Holistic Management heals the land, visit our Regenerative Solution page.
If you’d like to learn about Holistic Grazing Planning, download our free Grazing Planning e-book.
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