Arkansas Valley: 10th Annual Farm/Ranch/Water Symposium recap #COdrought #COWaterPlan

US Drought Monitor February 4, 2014
US Drought Monitor February 4, 2014

From the Fowler Tribune (Bette McFarren):

The 10th Annual Farm/Ranch/Water Symposium once again proved its usefulness with a full house of participants on a cold and wintry day. The meeting was held on Thursday at the Gobin Building and Baggage Room at the Rocky Ford Depot. Not as many tradespeople were in evidence this year, but the crowd of participants appeared undiminished by frigid weather.

[Grady Grissom], who operates his own working cattle ranch, experimented with varying intensity of grazing and the addition of winter-tolerant grasses to maintain a vegetation cover on pastures. The latter practice was found to greatly enhance water retention in the soil and resilience of the pasture land. He gave four principles for the ranchers to take away: “1. Plant diversity provides economic and ecological resilience in a drought. 2. Total residuals over 800# per acre ensure effective water capture (2″ blue gramma mixed with 8-10″ mid-grasses). 3. Blue gramma residuals over 1.5″ prevent mortality in a drought. 4. Alternate-year grazing may be economically effective in a drought.” He once again, as he did last year, quoted his older mentor, “It takes grass to make grass.”

Barriers to successful revegetation were the subject of scholarly research by Benjamin and Mikha of the USDA Agriculture Research Service. They found that badly compacted land is extremely difficult to revegetate and bare ground blows away, a factor with which Matt Heimerich of Crowley County is only too familiar. The practice of chiseling the earth to stop blowing dirt is effective only a short time and will produce no long-term benefit to the ground. Crowley County had a limey soil and has become progressively more degraded since 1982. Even dried vegetation helps. It should not be removed.

In James Eklund’s report on the Colorado Water Plan, he revealed that the basic implementation plan will be finalized in July 2014. Dale Mauch, farmer from the eastern part of the Arkansas River Basin, questioned Eklund about the efficacy of continuing to rely on western water sources, which are progressively severely affected by the drought. Why not import water from the East by pipeline? Eklund said that such a method had been tried previously, the object being to import water from Lake Michigan. The surrounding states formed compacts forbidding the exporting of water. He said that our methods may not be as effective as we wish, but doing nothing would be much worse. He added that in conditions of extreme drought similar to ours, Australia finally resorted to taking control of water resources nationally.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.

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