“Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it. Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water. If you can’t go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does.”
 - Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad


For most crops, irrigation simply provides water for the plant’s roots. But in a Balinese rice terrace, water is used to construct a complex, pulsed artificial ecosystem. Water temples manipulate the states of the system, at ascending levels in regional hierarchies. The permanence of water temple networks contrasts sharply with the instability of the traditional Balinese states. Since the water temples are real, perhaps it is the Balinese “state” that is chimerical.

J. Stephen Lansing, “Balinese ‘Water Temples’ and the Management of Irrigation” American Anthropologist, vol 89, issue 2.


Building Habitat

Though I have finished most of the digging, and extracted some clay, I am not quite finished laying stones in this stormwater pond/rain garden. I’m using salvaged paving slabs, concrete waste, and free local stones to prevent erosion on the banks and base, and planting more semi-aquatic irises to filter the water.

Unlike my stormwater swale, this water reservoir is partially sealed: I used a thin layer of clay around the banks so water would remain in the landscape a little longer.

When it is completely dry, it can be easily filled up by emptying a rain barrel, but I count on it going dry every ten days or less in order to mechanically kill mosquito larvae.

Despite the fact it it still “under construction,” several local Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) have begun making much more frequent and extended visits. I’m contemplating building a duck house or a nesting box out in the yard and seeing if they will dare nest here.

They seem to mind me less and less as we share the space out there without incident. It took awhile for them to warm up and realise I’m harmless, but as long as I give them some space and don’t make too many sudden movements, they’ll go about their business in quite close proximity.

Related: Insect Hotels; Squirrel Habitats


The Honghe Hani Rice Terraces, China, in Southern Yunnan, cascade down the slopes of the towering Ailao Mountains to the banks of the Hong River. Over the past 1300 years, the Hani people have developed a complex system of channels to bring water from the forested mountaintops to the terraces. They have also created an integrated farming system that involves buffalos, cattle, ducks, fish and eel and supports the production of red rice.

From here and here via here

Photos by Isabelle Chauvel

UF/IFAS researcher finds way to cut cost, save water and help the environment by changing one simple thing

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Sanjay Shukla looked out over row upon row of tomato and pepper plants and had an idea: What would happen if he made the compacted soil rows taller and more narrow?  Would the plants need less water, fertilizer and fumigation?  Would the plants grow as tall?  Would the plants produce as many vegetables?

And so, instead of planting rows that were normally 6 to 8 inches high and about 3 feet across, the University of Florida professor planted them 10 inches to a foot high and 1 ½ to 2 feet across. Instead of needing two drip lines to irrigate each row, they required only one.  In addition, they needed fewer square feet in plastic mulch covering. He calls it “compact bed geometry” or “hilling.”

Shukla, who specializes in agricultural and biological engineering, was astounded by the answers.

Not only did the tall narrow rows grow the same amount of vegetables, they retained more fertilizers – reducing what would have leached into groundwater – and they would need half the amount of water. In addition, he cut fumigation rates for pests by as much as 50 percent.

He estimates the revamped rows could save farmers $100 to $300 an acre, depending on the crop, the setup of their farm and how many drip lines they use per row; with a 1,000-acre farm, that can add up to a $300,000 savings. If used statewide, the potential cost savings for vegetable growers who use plastic mulch, could run into millions per crop per year.

“I’m looking at a business solution – you do this, you save money,” said Shukla, whose primary interest is water quality and supply issues.  His location at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Science’s Research and Education Center in Immokalee puts him at the northern edge of one of the most delicately balanced environments in the world – the Everglades. “And oh, by the way, it’s better for the environment.”

Read more here.

Provided by the University of Florida


Now that the mini-greenhouse has a roof, I have moved the trees and shrubs I stratified outdoors, and the ones I germinated in the bathroom closet into it. Once everything has germinated, I’ll hazard a guess that I’ll have planted my 100 trees a year in these pots alone.

There is also room to start perennial vegetables like cardoons, which I will seed in a flat tomorrow.

I appreciate having my young plants so close to a rain barrel: I never have to use any household water to support these plants.

(And yes, that is also a kayak in the background.)

The hand of man

This wonderful satellite photo highlights some of the ways in which we are modifying the surface and depths of the globe in order to keep our civilisation alive. The image was taken over a railyard in the Great Plains of Nebraska, and shows a bunch of trains laden with gleaming black coal to burn in power stations to produce electricity, emitting climate altering CO2 in the process and a semi circular irrigation pattern of a monoculture grain crop, sucking on some fast depleting aquifer (probably the Oglala) in order to keep us fed.

Power and food… satisfying these two needs for the 7 billion humans currently walking the Earth and desiring a comfortable lifestyle is putting the planet’s systems under a strain that only major geological events such as asteroid strikes or the eruption of continent sized volcanic provinces ever managed to do before. We certainly live in unprecedented and interesting times.


Image credit: Digital Globe

Healthier Tomatoes Grown in Seawater

by Charles Q. Choi, on Live Science

Tomatoes irrigated with diluted seawater grow with significantly higher levels of healthy antioxidant compounds, new research shows.

The option to use salty water on crops might help farmers deal with growing irrigation woes. Irrigation water, as well as drinking water, is growing scarce and deteriorating in quality around the world.

Nearly 70 percent of all available freshwater is used for agriculture. Use of water for irrigation has increased globally by more than 60 percent since 1960, according to United Nation statistics. At the same time, poor irrigation and drainage practices have led to salt buildup in roughly one-eighth of all irrigated land.

Although desalination plants that remove salt from saltwater now exist, they remain expensive. For example, distillation processes that separate out any dissolved minerals by boiling and condensing water require costly amounts of fuel.

Riccardo Izzo at the University of Pisa in Italy and his colleagues reasoned that diluted saltwater could drive crops to generate more healthy antioxidants, such as vitamins C or E. Plants generate antioxidants to protect themselves when stressed out by salt, drought or various other burdens.

Read more

#halophytes #tomatoes #antioxidants