Rain on my plain

As I am typing this, a glorious rain storm is pelting our farm.  We have been almost entirely rain free for the month of April, which puts the expression “April showers bring May flowers” at serious risk in these parts.  I absolutely love rain, and have fond memories (as most of us do, I’m sure) or running about in my skivvies during warm summer rain showers.  The tradition has continued with our three-year old.   Olivia has some really rockin’ pink gardening boots and has used them to perfect the art of puddle splashing after a good rain.  (The perfect splash, if you were unsure, is one that soaks an unsuspecting or unwilling bystander).
As a farmer I have noticed that there is just nothing quite like a good rain.  At Down to Earth Farm we use drip irrigation, which is a highly efficient system that only delivers water where the plants need it.  It’s a great  system and we are happy that it conserves that most precious of resources as we grow our food.  But we can run the irrigation for eons (which we don’t) and our plants will not respond nearly as well as they do after a nice rain.  I assumed that it was because we got much deeper and broader coverage with a heavy rain, but it turns out that rain is actually giving a little shot of fertilizer to crops.  According to the internet (more specifically, the Alabama agricultural extension service), rain actually absorbs a small percentage of nitrogen as it falls to the earth, in the form of ammonia.  And if there is lightening, as there is tonight, then another nitrogen compound, nitrate, is formed.  These same compounds are filtered out by soil so that by the time the rain seeps down to become ground water it no longer has the nitrogen present (which is a good thing for the ecosystem!).  So apparently all water is not the same………
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