Walker Basin Project Field Day and Barbecue
Long-term experiments sometimes yield unexpected results - and this is certainly the case for one component of the Alternative Agriculture and Vegetation Management project which is being conducted at the Cottonwood and Valley Vista Ranches near Yerington. "After two years the teff looked great, but now, in the third year, weeds are destroying our teff crop - and they are the same genus as the teff (eragrostis) so we can't use a weedkiller" explained Jay Davison (University of Nevada, Reno Cooperative Extension Office).
A group of about 20 Walker Basin ranchers and residents clustered round Davison as he plucked a handful of the teff crop, and showed how similar the "weed" and the "real crop" are in appearance. "Perhaps we have a Nevada teff varital" said Davison "the seeds are really dark which is valued for flour production, but this weed will be a challenge for any grower to deal with".
Davison guided participants September 2nd's Walker Basin Field Day down the rows of alternative crops, pointing out the advantages and potential disadvantages of each and discussing yields and irrigation regimes. The group also learned about plant behavior in response to changes in temperature, precipitation/irrigation and humidity from Jay Arnone (Desert Research Institute) who demonstrated the measuring and monitoring equipment being used on site.
The group then visited plots where cool and warm season biomass production for nine species was being compared, and where weeds were again identified as the major production challenge. The third component of the Alternative Agriculture and Vegetation Management project is a revegetation study, where seeding has resulted in very healthy four wing saltbush shrubs (Atriplex canescens) - which show good potential for reducing dust and loss of fine soil particles.
Large cottonwood trees on the lawn in front of the 5C Cottonwood Ranch provided shade for the barbeque which followed the tour. Delicious food and interesting science proved a good mixture, and Basin residents lingered into early afternoon - exchanging ideas, discussing problems and sharing reminiscences.