I have also been discussing the drought with progressive ranchers. The biggest concern has not been the lack of moisture so much as the hot, dry wind. It sucks the moisture out of the soil faster than anything else. One rancher in particular is now building treed windrows between each of his paddocks, similar to snow fences up north. These windrows also benefit local wildlife, providing more shelter, while longer grasses hold a greater variety of bugs that feed a greater variety of birds.
What are we learning? Ground cover. When it seems that the only options are gravel or paving stones, we have to consider another option. Taller grasses which means less mowing. But will it survive? “Will it survive?” is a clear case of the kind of linear thinking that has been generating the same results of soil degradation for the past 60 years or so. It also relates to the definition of insanity (doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result). Are we ready to do something different yet? It is our way of thinking that needs to change. The alternative to linear thinking is more holistic thinking. The key to holistic thinking is that there are no silver bullet answers, only silver buckshot. No single action can solve all of the problems we face. Instead we need to implement different beneficial practices that complement each other, and we watch for signs in the plants, soil, bugs and animals to learn when to adjust our practices.
The database of the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center – wildflowers.org provides a comprehensive list of plants and an excellent search function that allow you to find plant for every micro-environment. There are numerous grasses that could fulfill the requirements mentioned above.
One other thought. It was brought to my attention that the rainfall patterns are now showing a short wet season of about 6-8 months, followed by extended drought. This observation has the right feel to it, and I will be doing more research to test the observation. If so, it means we have a small window in which to get things right or adjusted, and then a long wait when we can test our ideas about what will work during a drought, to be followed by a small window (wet season) in which to make adjustments.
To sum it all up, our future is going to be different from our past. Will our thinking reflect that? If you want to know more, or discuss this, please check the education section of our new website.