Soil workshop covers run-off

Dennis Brezina, Soil Health Specialist with the USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service, explains the benefits of keeping crop soil covered after demonstrating the effects of infiltration and run-off with a rain machine on Jan. 9 in Riviera. (Photo by Richard Gonzales)

Editor's Note: The purpose of the Jan. 9 workshop was to introduce landowners/farmers/ranchers to resources available to them from state and federal agencies, as well as educating on Best Management Practices that could help alleviate runoff into the streams that lead to Baffin Bay. An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated why the workshop was held.

The Texas Sea Grant program’s Soil Health Workshop attracted a diverse group of about 25 people on Thursday, Jan. 9 in the Kaufer High School library in Riviera.

The workshop included morning presentations on current agricultural science and best practices success stories on rangeland and farmland soil management. 

The afternoon sessions included hands-on demonstrations of the benefits to using soil coverage techniques to reduce agricultural runoff and establish healthier soil. The workshop was the third in a series of five sessions that will eventually, lead towards the next phase of the development of a Baffin Bay Watershed Protection Plan.

Soil quality and water quality are part of the agricultural runoff equation. Agricultural runoff is the leading impairment to water bodies such as lakes, rivers and bays. Historically, Baffin Bay has experienced periodic episodes of brown harmful algal blooms with some people pointing to Kleberg County agriculture as the root cause.

“In the 34 years I have lived in Kleberg County, farmers take very good care of their land,” said Francisco Escobedo with the Kleberg-Kenedy County AgriLife Extension. “I think they are listening as we struggle with moisture. We either have too much, or too, little.”

“However, there are some landowners who do say, ‘This is the way we have always done it,” Escobedo, who was one of seven panelists offering responses to questions and comments from the public, said.

In South Texas, heated weather in temperatures between 95-100 degrees Fahrenheit, results in about 85 percent of moisture lost to evaporation, leaving only 15 percent for growth according to Ray Hinojosa, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Protecting soil quality under these conditions require landowners to develop the best system possible. 

The Environmental Protection Agency reports that farmers and ranchers can reduce erosion and sedimentation by 20 to 90 percent by applying management practices that can control the movement of soil and water. The EPA recommends they keep soil covered to better control runoff and to improve water infiltration on their lands.

The Texas Sea Grant program, in partnership with the USDA’s NRCS, and Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board, also co-sponsored the workshop made possible by a grant from the Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program.

Future workshops will cover water quality and fisheries in March, and green infrastructure for Texas in May. 

For updated information from the project team, please contact ashmarie@tamu.edu or call (979) 324-5024. 

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