On a bright October morning in a hotel parking lot, Greg Scott turns on the rainfall simulator.
The machine’s swiveling nozzle sprays fat drops on five soil samples held in trays a few feet below. Some soil is bare; other samples are planted with prairie grass, wheat, and other field crops. Within minutes dirty, sediment-saturated water begins flowing off the plots that are not anchored by vegetation. In the other trays, the drops soak into the ground. The little water that does run off the planted trays is much cleaner, the color of green tea. The lesson of the artificial cloudburst is clear: neglect the soil and water will suffer.
A soil scientist with the Oklahoma Conservation Commission and a cattle rancher, Scott uses the contraption, hauled like a magician’s prop out of a trailer and onto the asphalt lot, to demonstrate how biologically diverse, untilled soils that are rich in organic matter can help solve agriculture’s twin challenges of water pollution and water scarcity.
Source: Brett Walton, Circle of Blue, October 13, 2015