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NRCS Helps Host Annual Field Day in the Texas Panhandle

story by Gary Parks, Soil Conservation Technician

NRCS Soil Scientist Todd Carr demonstrates the use of the soil probe truck.Soil Scientists from USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) coordinated planning efforts with the Bureau of Land Management to host a student field day on the Cross Bar Ranch, near Amarillo.

NRCS Soil Scientists Todd Carr and Craig Byrd from Lubbock, NRCS Soil Conservation Technician Gary Parks from Amarillo, and Cartographic Technician Lori McMorrough from Canyon conducted a field day presentation to over 100 students from Amarillo Caprock High School.

Students came to the 12,000-acre Cross Bar Ranch, operated by the Bureau of Land Management, to learn on the land. The field day curriculum was tailored to give students hands on experience from agency and educational institution professionals in the disciplines of biology and land management.

NRCS Soil Scientist Todd Carr points out soil characteristics to students from Caprock High School.NRCS employees showed students soil survey techniques and how to identify and pick out characteristics of the soil. With the use of two probe trucks, students participated in gathering soil core samples. Once the samples were obtained, students were shown how to identify horizons, structure, color, effervescence, and moisture levels in the soil. They were able to see how the lack of moisture has affected the soil.

The program also consisted of a grubbed cholla hoisted above the ground with 10 to 15 foot strings branching out in all directions to simulate the root system. This proved to be a useful display. It provided students with a better understanding of how the cholla, with its extensive root system, impacts soil moisture.

NRCS Soil Conservation Technician Gary Parks discusses the Cholla root system with students.Students also received soil maps, and they learned how they are used and how the information is gathered and disseminated.

Other agencies present at the field day were West Texas A&M University, National Park Service, and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.