Voice: Fallowing will add to dust problems in Valley

January 26, 2002

As a winter visitor, I have read with peripheral professional interest the ongoing debate over the water transfer, with fallowing as one aspect of this.

First I must say that giving one quart of your precious Imperial Valley water without a tremendous fight is beyond my imagination. That includes giving any for the Salton Sea.

But I think this aspect of fallowing has not been brought up — and that is increased dust. Our dusty last Tuesday reminds us all that dust is a constant feature of all deserts and worse here in the Imperial Valley due to extensive soil disturbance.

Fallowing will absolutely increase the dust we all suffer on windy days. Fallow fields must be weeded — unless no crops are anticipated for many years — because weeds will grow on a fallow field. If cropping is to be reinstituted in a few years on a fallow field, then it behooves the farmer to control weeds.


I have not seen a rod-weeder in the Valley. Such devices allow weeding with minimal soil disturbance. What we all see are discs to till the soil. Discs used for weeding are effective, but they cause much upturned and thus very erodible soil.

Dust adds to the air particulate load, causing human respiratory distress and will very likely result in an increase in cases of valley fever (See: I.V. Press, Jan. 21, page B-6 for more on this.).

Should fallowing become a reality, then I encourage the following practice: before fallowing, a cover crop of irrigated grass should be planted and allowed to mature. When water is withheld, the dead grass tops and roots will help to hold the soil in place while also reducing the number of weeds.

Good luck winter friends!



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