When, for extended period of time, water table in the area goes down, drought starts and vegetation vanishes. Without vegetation there is little hope for raising of the water table and restoration of the area.
This process of desertification goes faster and further, when forests in the area are cut down, usually for lumber, fire wood, etc.
Forests are guardians of the water table: they reduce temperature of the air and make it moister, protect streams and lakes from evaporation and stimulate formation of clouds in the area.
Any management of the agricultural area should include measures of maintaining sufficiently high water tables and to achieve that it should include careful management of forests in the area: planting forests, where they were cut down, and planting new forests, where they could take hold.
Note that there are animals in the forest, which normal activity causes rising of water table, they are beavers. When we want to raise and maintain high water table in places, where beavers occur or used to occur naturally, we need to encourage beavers to settle in our forests and be comfortable there.
Areas where new groves of forests could improve productivity of land allocated for agriculture are perfect candidates for profitable development.
Following is description of how this could be achieved.
Trees of a new forest should not be planted in rows. They should be planted in the way that forested area grows naturally through self-seeding. Technically, it is convenient to plant them on a grid, with sufficient distance from each other. Hexagonal grid is especially convenient, because it provides 3 neighbors nearby and a lot of space for seeds to take off.
In addition, a new forest should be planed like a new ecosystem, where underground waters, above ground waters, trees, animals, birds and insects operate in concert.
Insects destroying trees should be controlled, hence birds eating insects should be provided with what they need most in a dry area – water. Small depressions in the ground should be enhanced with small dams, that rain water could stay their longer. Trees should be planted around these depressions to provide shade. Trees need water the most during dry periods. These puddles created for birds should help a little.
Beavers are good at keeping water tables high during dry seasons, when trees need water the most. They build dams on streams, thus creating ponds and keeping water tables high. Where it is feasible, some ground features should be rearranged to facilitate formation of streams for beavers, and around streams should be planted trees of types, which beavers prefer.
Beavers should be brought into promising places at right moments to colonize and expand upstream with new generations.
As water tables are rising, planted area could be expanded, where roots of young trees could to reach water.
The dynamic of rising of water tables (where, and how much), could be predicted. It is defined by the underground structure in the area.
A promising area should have water permeable and water impermeable layers underground, that water could be caught in water permeable layers close to the surface for long period of time and thus be accessible to roots of trees. Areas, which cannot hold water this way, are not usable for this kind of development.
Hence the entire project has to start with extensive survey of the underground structure of the area – entire are, some parts of it will be allocated for the forest, other will be allocated for agriculture and third for settlements (where water is pumped from the ground).
This might sound strange at first glance, but the area allocated for the forest should have the most reliable water availability, even it periods of droughts. This is because this way the forest allows survival of entire agricultural area through years of droughts. Without it, the area could completely dry out again during a period of severe drought.
This requirement defines how area is divided between the forests, agricultural land and lend for settlements.
Underground water distribution is defined by distribution of water impermeable layers. From that point of view, there “high” areas, “low” areas, etc.
“High” areas should be allocated for settlements.
“Very low” areas eventually will become lakes and ponds with streams of water between them some underground and some on the surface. Surface area in these places should be available for planting only in initial stages of development and this is a perfect place to raise small trees before they are replanted permanently.
Areas in-between should be divided between the forest and agriculture. “Lower” part should go to the forest and “higher” to agriculture. Actual division should take in account surface features of the land – land unusable for agriculture should be allocated for the forest, even when it is from a “higher” part. As a result, most likely, it will be a few large forest areas surrounding lakes and ponds and a few stand alone groves on “higher” part of the underground water distribution system (they have to be planted with drought resistant plants).
In spite of all this survey and planning, it is impossible to predict exactly future weather conditions and plan precisely development of a new ecosystem. One needs to experiment and learn on the way.
It is known how to plant trees efficiently:
1. set up protected environment to grow small trees from seeds (primary),
2. setup special places, where to replant these small trees densely in rows, where they could acquire strength for a few years (secondary),
3. replant strong trees in final location.
The primary location should be where it is easy to take care of them; secondary location should be in the area of growing forest.
In our case, it makes sense to use places, which eventually will be overtaken by lakes and ponds as primary and secondary locations. Final replanting we should do on a hexagonal grid to provide plenty of space for self-seeding. We could also replant trees in groves with sufficient space between them to provide more space for self-seeding.
Planting a forest, even planting stretched over many years, could be a labor intensive work, which could be expensive. Hence, mechanization is needed. Following is a description of a Tree Planting Machine and associated technological process, which should decrease the cost of it substantially.
A large tree planting operation requires a Tree Planting Machine.
Existing efficient machines making holes in the ground consist of two machines – one is a form of a drill and a truck, which carries it. It makes sense to follow this example.
Drilling machine should have a large diameter screw fitted in tube of about the same diameter. The screw does not leave the tube, it only rotates in it. The tube does not rotate during drilling. Tube and screw form one tube-screw assembly, which moves vertically.
The external diameter of the screw (same as internal diameter of the tube) is the diameter of the hole, where a tree is to be planted. The screw should extend beyond the tube on the bottom of tube-screw assembly. This extending part is a “digging” part of the tube-screw assembly.
The tube-screw assembly is enclosed in a strong vertical “cage” – a prism with three vertical sides. It can slide vertically in the “cage”, guided by rails. These rails are the part of the cage, and they prevent rotation of the tube.
When the screw rotates in one direction, dirt is extracted and automatically stored in the tube. This operation is used when a hole is created. When it rotates in the opposite direction, dirt is pushed from the tube out. This operation is used, when the machine have moved away from the hole and dumps dirt on the ground.
Where sides of the cage meet, there is a vertical “leg”, it could move vertically along the cage up and down, its movement is controlled and the leg could be locked. Thus there are three movable legs. In the beginning of the digging the hole in the ground, these three legs are lowered to the ground and locked. They are unlocked and lifted, when there is time to move.
There are two motors; one rotates the screw in the tube (rotation of the tube is restricted by the cage, it cannot rotate), the other moves screw-tube assembly up and down.
When first motor rotates the screw in digging direction, the second motor moves the tube-screw assembly towards the ground. When the tube-screw assembly reaches the ground, the screw digs into the ground and dirt accumulates in the tube. When hole is complete, the first motor stops and the second motor changes direction and extracts tube-screw assembly from the ground. It lifts this assembly above the ground to allow for dumping the dirt on the ground later on.
Next phase of the operation:
1) legs are unlocked and lifted,
2) the entire machine moves ahead a distance, which is somewhat large than the diameter of the hole,
3) first motor rotates in the direction opposite from digging and drops dirt on the ground next to the freshly made hole.
This produces the state, where there is an easily accessible hole on the ground, and there is a pile of dirt next to it (under the cage).
Before we start making the hole, we check the ground, if there are some obstacles there, like large stones, on the way. If chosen place is bad, we move away from it.
We check the ground with simple sharp rods – probes. A couple of such probes and relevant machinery should be placed on the cage. We could use more sophisticated equipment also.
One needs to pick up the tree from the storage and put it vertically in the hole. We add an industrial manipulator(s) to the machine to do that.
This way, a machine operator could do this operation alone without anyone’s help.
We will need a couple of such manipulators to load trees on the machine. Hence we should have two of them, one on each side of the machine.
When a tree is positioned in the hole with a manipulator, two things have to be done:
· dirt from the hole has to be gently placed back over the roots of the tree
· nutrients have to be added to the hole to mitigate problems associated with the tree replanting.
To move dirt, the machine should have three independent “paddles” underneath of the machine, just in front of the cage. The middle one would move dirt directly to the back and two others would “guide” the dirt from both sides into the hole.
Since water has to be poured into the loose dirt placed over roots of the tree, nutrients should be added dissolved in that water.
Water with nutrients should be stored in tanks on the truck. This nutrient rich water has to be replenished regularly, when new trees are delivered.
A simple way to transport lightweight, but delicate trees would be to have a kind of a standard size lightweight tab, for carrying trees. Such tub with trees should be transported to the planting machine, and exchanged with empty tab on the planting machine.
This is where two manipulators become very handy:
1) empty tab removed from the machine to the ground,
2)full tab from a truck is moved on the planting machine
3)empty tab is moved from the ground on the truck.
That could be done without anyone leaving the cabin.
An operator in the cabin of the machine cannot see or hear what goes on in the area of planting (and sometimes in the tab with trees). Cameras and microphones should be placed in all relevant areas and images should be passed to screens in the cabin and sounds to speakers in the cabin. This would allow operator to control entire process from the cabin.
The machine should be able to traverse a difficult terrain without damaging it much; hence Caterpillar Tracks are preferable over the wheels on the tree planting machine.
This conversion of barren land into a combination of thriving agricultural land, settlements and associated forest should be done as a profitable enterprise, which makes its success so much likely.
The final business arrangement should be like a condominium building in a large city: owners of parcels of agricultural and settlement land should operate according to set rules of the “condominium” and should pay maintenance fees to the “condominium”. The “condominium” uses the fees to maintain forest and monitor the state of the underground water in the area. An owner of a parcel of land in “condominium” could sell his parcel as a whole or in part, all subject to rules of the “condominium”.
The “condominium” is managed by an elected Board, with all owners of parcels of land voting according to the size and type of owned parcels.
The predecessor of the “condominium” should be for profit Development Corporation, which works in close cooperation with the government (possibly with some investment in it by the government). It surveys areas for such development, buys all land of the chosen area (including future forest land), properly develops it, and sets up the “condominium”. Initially, this Corporation is a sole owner of all the parcels of land allocated for agriculture and settlements in the “condominium”.
Gradually, the Development Corporation sells parcels of agricultural and settlement land in the “condominium”. The Development Corporation liquidates, when all parcels of land, which it owns, are sold.
Alexander Liss 6/23/2019