Skip to main content

Dryland Farming

Dryland farming

Dryland farming is the practice cultivating crops without irrigation (rainfed agriculture). In the United States, the term usually refers to crop production in low-rainfall areas without irrigation, using moisture-conserving techniques such as mulches and fallowing. Non-irrigated farming is practiced in the Great Plains, inter-mountain, and Pacific regions of the country, or areas west of the 23.5 in (600 mm) annual precipitation line, where native vegetation was short prairie grass. In some parts of the world dryland farming means all rainfed agriculture.

In the western United States, dryland farming has often resulted in severe or moderate wind erosion . Alternating seasons of fallow and planting has left the land susceptible to both wind and water erosion. High demand for a crop sometimes resulted in cultivating lands not suitable for longtime farming, degrading the soil measurably.

Conservation tillage , leaving all or most of the previous crop residues on the surface, decreases erosion and conserves water. Methods used are stubble mulch , mulch, and ecofallow. In the wetter parts of the Great Plains, fallowing land has given over to annual cropping, or three-year rotations with one year of fallow.

See also Arable land; Desertification; Erosion; Soil; Tilth

[William E. Larson ]



Anderson, J. R. Risk Analysis in Dryland Farming Systems. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 1992.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Dryland Farming." Environmental Encyclopedia. . 20 Apr. 2019 <>.

"Dryland Farming." Environmental Encyclopedia. . (April 20, 2019).

"Dryland Farming." Environmental Encyclopedia. . Retrieved April 20, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.