Focusing on the historical dust bowl, we find several things concerning to us in the present day. First, the western Great Plains had several year wet spells, before returning to dry conditions in which farming was not tenable without irrigation. This is perhaps what we are seeing today - with only areas that have central pivot irrigation pumping water from the Ogalalla Aquifer surviving.
These previous wet conditions came right after the Homestead Act and Transcontinental Railroad caused mass migration to this area in the mid 1860s. This convinced settlers that "rain follows the plow" as land promoters said, the opposite of reality. Farmers to this area used similar practices to what they had done farther east - with deep plowing, no cover crops in winter, and no windbreak planting.
|A Dust Storm hitting Stratford Texas in 1935 - from Wikipedia|
What can be done to prevent such erosion in dry periods while still utilizing farmland or grazing land. One simple answer is plant trees. This is what the Civilian Conservation Corps did in response to the Dust Bowl with considerable success and popularity. The CCC was disbanded during WWII due to need for manpower to fight the war.
|In this map from the USDA, areas in yellow and red are at high risk for desertification. You can see that much of the Western U.S. is in this category.|
How effective is the Waterboxx in helping trees survive? In a Sahara desert planting trial, 88% of single trees survived to one year when planted with the Waterboxx, even though water was given only at planting. The survival percentage for one tree increased to 99% when two trees were planted with the Waterboxx and the weaker one removed at one year. This compares to only 11% survival of the same tree (salt cedar) when they were watered weekly. You can see the results from this trial below.
|Three years growth of a Salt Cedar with the Groasis Waterboxx. From Groasis.com|
Trees planted with the Waterboxx will survive even when the Waterboxx is removed. This is because the Waterboxx releases water straight down, inducing the tree roots to grow to deeper moist soil. The tree can survive off the water held in capillary channels here during drought. This concept is explained in the video below.
Another example of the Waterboxx turning desert into green space is Kuwait. Here Ghaf trees initially planted with the Waterboxx survived and are thriving eight months after the Waterboxxes were removed.
|Ghaf trees with no watering after planting - in the last photo the Waterboxx have been gone for 8 months and the trees still survive. This land is now protected against dust storms and can be used for grazing. Groasis.com|
Won't trees planted with the Waterboxx be eaten by wildlife? Possibly, but there is a solution for this as well. The Growsafe Tree Protector allows light and air through to the trunk, but protects the tree from hungry herbivores. Several can be combined end to end to prevent tree damage until the tree is old enough to survive on its own.
While it is best to plant trees in the fall or spring, the Waterboxx increases tree survival when they are planted in summer as well. Please visit Dew Harvest if you would like to buy the Waterboxx.
If you would like to learn how to grow plants without watering with the Waterboxx, the best resource is the book The Waterboxx Gardener: How to Mimic Nature, Stop Watering, and Start Enjoying Your Garden available here on Amazon.com.
Image: Desertification Vulnerability
Accessed from http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/national/nedc/training/soil/?cid=nrcs142p2_054003 on 5/23/2015; public domain