The ecology of floodwater farming in arid southwestern North America

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

33 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Floodwater farming is the management of sporadic flashfloods for crop production. It is an ancient technique in the arid southwestern region of North America that is currently being reevaluated and adapted. Floodwater-based agro-ecosystems function via (1) hydrostatic manipulations of the physical environment, and (2) synecological manipulations of the plant community. Agronomically productive hydrostatic conditions have been developed by geomorphological alteratiions of the floodplain, including canals, terraces, grids, spreaders, and weirs. These environmental modifications serve to (1) concentrate the runoff from a larger watershed into a strategically located field, and (2) break the erosive force of the incoming water. Traditional floodwater farming in arid America has depended upon ephemeral, drought-avoiding and heat-tolerant genotypes. In addition, native Americans manipulate the wild and weedy flora of floodwater fields by discouraging or protecting and harvesting selected species. As part of traditional subsistence, floodwater farming has undergone a demise in native communities. Techniques are, however, being modified for (1) forage production, and (2) supplemental human food production. As a high risk system, floodwater agriculture is not now competitive with conventional irrigation agriculture in arid lands, but may become so as groundwater pumping costs continue to affect crop production economics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)245-255
Number of pages11
JournalAgro-Ecosystems
Volume5
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 1979

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hydrostatics
crop production
farming systems
ecology
agriculture
ecosystem function
food production
subsistence
arid region
terrace
canal
forage
spreaders
weirs
floodplain
plant community
pumping
genotype
flora
canals (waterways)

Cite this

The ecology of floodwater farming in arid southwestern North America. / Nabhan, Gary P.

In: Agro-Ecosystems, Vol. 5, No. 3, 1979, p. 245-255.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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