International Media Broadcaster Visits Texas Panhandle
story by Quenna Terry
Voices of America (VOA), an international multimedia broadcasting agency of the U.S. Government, recently videoed areas of the Texas Panhandle to document drought conditions impacting the agriculture industry.
The USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provided assistance to VOA reporter, Steve Baragona, to find agriculture producers and agriculture industry managers willing to participate in a documentary depicting how agriculture is surviving the severe drought.
Farmer and cattlemen David Ford, director of the Corn Producers' Association of Texas and the Texas Corn Producers' Board, was one of several agricultural business owners VOA wanted to interview to get a closer look at conservation strategies being used to help conserve resources and decrease input costs.
Ford showed the implementation of his conservation tillage system in the field and explained how the practice and management has reduced his irrigation, labor, and fuel costs. According to Ford, the increased water infiltration with conservation tillage has also resulted in greater soil-water holding capacity, while maintaining crop residues and organic matter to help the soil hold onto water instead of losing it to evaporation or runoff. Although Ford didn't have exceptional yields this year due to the drought, he was able to utilize his crop residues to cover the soil surface and further protect the soil from drying out more and blowing away.
"I am going to use any conservation strategy I can to conserve water for the life of my operation, but that water conservation is even more important in the middle of a drought like this one," Ford says.
NRCS Agronomist Brandt Underwood, Lubbock, followed Ford in the VOA interview and discussed further benefits of reduced tillage practices to help producers conserve soil moisture and protect soil from wind erosion events in a record year drought.
According to NRCS, some of the principal benefits of reduced tillage practices include improved water conservation and reduced soil erosion along with a reduction in fuel consumption, compaction, planting and harvesting flexibility, reduced labor requirements, and improved soil tilth to increase productivity.
"Farmers who use conservation tillage methods can improve their soil and water quality with reduced input costs," said Underwood. "If a producer wants to make a conservation tillage system work and the necessary changes in crop production management, it can provide greater profits."
Reduced tillage systems range from no-till, where soil is undisturbed before planting and only a narrow opening in the soil is made to insert the crop seed into the ground at planting; to strip-till, where six to nine inch strips of soil is tilled to plant; or mulch till, where the entire soil surface is disturbed by tillage before planting, using implements that keep a high percentage of crop residues on the surface.
Baragona says the documentary will be available on the VOA website, www.voanews.com by the end of November.
For additional information about conservation tillage practices, please contact the local NRCS office in your county, or visit the Texas NRCS website at www.tx.nrcs.usda.gov/programs.
David Ford explains in his interview with VOA the importance of metering irrigation wells in order to determine accurate amounts of water pumped into the irrigation system. Ford says to manage your resources well an irrigation meter is a critical tool to know the efficiencies of the pumping unit.
David Ford harvested corn in late September and his overall yields were below average in drought conditions.
NRCS Agronomist Brandt Underwood, Lubbock, was interviewed by VOA on David Fords Farm in Moore County. Ford has consulted with NRCS for technical assistance and conservation cost-share program practices through the 2008 Farm Bill.
NRCS Agronomist Brandt Underwood, Lubbock, stands in one of David Ford's conservation tillage fields discussing the overall benefits of rotational cropping systems and conservation tillage practices.