Converting to Dryland Farming

Southwest Kansas farmer Steve Arnold had been a big irrigator with ten wells, numerous pivot irrigation systems and four-wheel-drive tractors. Then, his wells ran dry. The Ogallala Aquifer failed him. Arnold converted to dryland farming, adopted precision farming equipment and practices, and is using no-till and cover cropping.

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Program Allows Farming While Protecting Wetland

Jerry Stevens enrolled in the Rainwater-Basin Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program, which restores and protects wetlands in fields under production by allowing center pivots to cross the rainwater basins. It’s win-win. The program protects a wetland, and allows the producer to farm the circle around it.

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Kansas Producers Self-regulate Water Use

New legislation in Kansas makes it possible for producers to work within water conservation districts to create Locally Enhanced Management Areas (LEMAs) and agree among themselves how much groundwater use they can curtail. Brad Oelke talks about the first LEMA, which began in January 2013, and how NRCS may be able to help irrigators reduce consumption.

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Conservation Planning to Reduce Water Use

Realizing the vital importance of the Ogallala Aquifer to the High Plains, The Natural Resources Conservation Service launched the Ogallala Aquifer Initiative. Playa lakes recharge the aquifer, and because of that, NRCS provides ways, through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, for producers to rehabilitate playas in cropland. NRCS Conservationists can help landowners develop a conservation plan that meets their goals, using this and other USDA conservation programs.

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Helping Landowners Conserve Playas

  Duane Cheney, from the Kansas Alliance for Wetlands and Streams, talks to landowners and operators in western Kansas about the benefits of enrolling playas in a Wetlands Reserve Easement or the Continuous Conservation Reserve Program, thereby taking those “mudholes” out of production and converting them into wonderful wildlife habitat that also helps recharge the […]

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NRCS Ogallala Aquifer Initiative

Realizing the importance of the Ogallala Aquifer to High Plains states, the Natural Resources Conservation Service created the Ogallala Aquifer Initiative to attempt to reduce the quantity of water removed from the aquifer, improve water quality using conservation practices, and enhance the economic viability of croplands and rangelands in the region. This episode explains how playas fit into these goals.

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Playa Restoration on Grissom Ranch

Southeast Colorado rancher Grady Grissom received help to restore one of his playas, which had been pitted. After the pit was filled and a perimeter of native grass seeded, playa vegetation returned — and so did the birds.

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Kansas Water Laws Change

Ogallala Aquifer draw-down exceeds recharge, especially in the southern High Plains states of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. In 2012, the state of Kansas changed its water-rights policies to encourage water conservation and self-regulation among ag producers in the state.

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Ogallala Aquifer Conservation

A significant report published by the National Academy of Sciences says if current trends continue, “35 percent of the southern High Plains will be unable to support irrigation within the next 30 years.” There are some bright spots: science now understands that playa lakes are a significant source of water that recharges aquifers; the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is spending money with ag producers and landowners to fund water conservation projects; state agencies like the Texas Water Development Board are helping producers conserve water; and at least one state, Kansas, has changed water-rights laws in order to change behaviors.

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