Retaining Moisture in Sandy Soil

Many producers have converted to no-till, and now progressive farmers are learning to cover crop to keep soil covered after harvesting a cash crop. Ryan Speer is such a producer. He farms in central Kansas along the Arkansas River south of Halstead. He grows corn, soybeans, wheat and milo, in sandy soil poor at retaining moisture. Ryan started cover-cropping in 2007. By improving the biological material in his soil, more moisture is being stored from precipitation events.

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Producer Finds Cover Crops Provide Forage and Improve Soil

The Thompson Farm and Ranch straddles the Kansas-Nebraska line. Drought in this region is entering its fourth year. The Thompson family uses no-till practices to grow dryland wheat and corn and also run cows. They went no-till in 2000 and several years ago started using cover crops, instead of continuing to leave a field fallow. The first cover crop surpassed their expectations — providing forage for cattle and improving the soil.

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Playa Renovation on Jan Minton’s Ranch in Texas

Jan Minton’s ranch — the family operation she took over in Floyd County, Texas — had been “farmed to death,” she said, and two playas were in poor condition. Bill Johnson, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist, developed a restoration plan that involved silt removal, playa repair, and a native grass and forbs plant buffer around the playas’ margins.

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Initiative Helps New Mexico Rancher Manage Rangeland

Lesser Prairie-Chicken

Kyle Dillard, a Milnesand rancher is taking advantage of an NRCS program. He’s a cow/calf man in eastern New Mexico, right in the middle of a large Lesser Prairie-Chicken population. Dillard discusses how the NRCS Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative helps him manage his rangeland and provide better habitat for the bird.

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NRCS Program Helps Rancher Remove Invasive Shrubs

Invasive removal

The lack of fire as a management tool on the Great Plains has permitted indigenous and foreign woody plants to encroach on prairie grasslands, reducing Lesser Prairie-Chicken habitat. Through the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative, NRCS can help producers and range managers remove woody invasive species — through burning, cutting and spraying. We tell one Oklahoma Panhandle rancher’s experience participating in the NRCS initiative.

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NRCS Partnership Program Supports Innovative Project

Producer Joel Bergman of Loomis, Nebraska, talks about how he switched from labor-intensive canal and gravity irrigation to pivot and underground drip systems on his 1500-acre operation. The Bergman farmstead prevents one pivot system from sweeping 360 degrees, bypassing the pie-slice where the farmstead is located. Bergman proposed putting in a wiper center pivot and 20-acres’ worth of underground drip irrigation.

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Kansas Producer Reduces Water Consumption

The Natural Resources Conservation Service is partnering with regional agencies in promoting meaningful actions for water conservation. Certain areas over the aquifer have experienced more groundwater depletion than others. Kansas producer Gary Moss received help through the local groundwater management district to revert part of his irrigated operation to dryland and meet his water consumption goal.

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Oklahoma Ranchers Benefit from Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative

Lesser Prairie-Chicken

We visit a couple ranchers in the Oklahoma panhandle who are participating in the NRCS Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative. Jordan Shearer, a Slapout rancher, talks about how participation in the Initiative has given him technical expertise on range management and helped improve his grassland, even following exceptional drought in 2010-2012. Loren Sizelove ranches near Shearer, and he’s the Beaver County Extension Agent. The drought took its toll on Sizelove’s herd, and he had to disperse 60 percent of his herd. His participation in the Initiative has resulted in payments for deferring grazing, and deferring calving.

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Improving Water Filtration through No-till and Cover Crops

Scott Gonnerman started no-till practices in 2005 and began cover-cropping his east Nebraska fields in 2009. He says he used to think of the soil simply as dirt. But he’s seen with his own eyes how infiltration has improved in step with a healthier ecosystem immediately below the soil surface.

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Water Conservation in Northeast Colorado

When Denver physician and sportsman Kent Heyborne bought land in northeast Colorado, his intent was to leave it undeveloped as bird habitat. But, working with Ducks Unlimited along the South Platte River, he created a water-conservation project resulting in neighboring farms gaining additional irrigation credits. By putting the land under perpetual easement, he created a development-free zone spanning from one wildlife park to another, ensuring a corridor of waterfowl habitat several miles long. Plus, he earned state and federal tax credits along the way.

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