As water continues to be a scarce resource and concerns about food security grow, agricultural producers need to make sure they are maintaining healthy soil in order to maximize production of quality crops. To help growers, University of Nevada, Reno Extension is offering an online weekly series of seven workshops Aug. 30 – Oct. 11 on understanding and managing soil health, as well as an in-person day of presentations and tours in Fallon on Sept. 30, “Soil Health and Regenerative Agriculture for the Carson River Watershed.”
“Healthy soil is key to successful crop production,” said Maninder K. Walia, Extension assistant professor and field crop specialist, who put together the online series of workshops and will also present at the Sept. 30 in-person event. “By knowing the composition of your soil, how soils function, and ways to manage soil to promote short-term and long-term soil health, producers can prevent a lot of problems and make their job easier, as well as make their harvests more bountiful.”
Online weekly series of workshops
This series of classes, part of Extension’s Alternative Crops Program, will be held via Zoom on Tuesdays, 10 – 11 a.m., Aug. 30 – Oct. 11. Presenters include faculty and researchers from the University’s College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources and its Extension unit, as well as specialists from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection and Full Circle Compost. The workshops are free, but registration is required for each event. The workshops include:
- Properties of Soils, Aug. 30, presented by Walia.
- The Importance of Soil Nutrients, Compost and Fertilizers With Application Rate Calculation, Sept. 6, presented by Cody Witt, Full Circle Compost.
- Increasing C Sequestration in Soils: Can Biochar Help?, Sept. 13, presented by Paul Verburg; associate professor of soil science; University of Nevada, Reno.
- The Soil Health and Water Connection, Sept. 20, presented by Chuck Schembre, environmental scientist, Nevada Division of Environmental Protection.
- Regenerative Ag & Soil Health Principals, Sept. 27, presented by Marlon Winger, regional soil health specialist (Idaho, Wyoming and Montana), USDA NRCS Soil Health Division.
- Winter Annual Cropping Systems: Lessons Learned After Two Years of Evaluation in Nevada, Oct. 4, presented by Juan Solomon; associate professor of agronomy; University of Nevada, Reno.
- Basics of Composting, Oct. 11, presented by Elaine Fagin; Community Horticulture Education Program; University of Nevada, Reno Extension.
Those who register for a workshop will then be emailed a Zoom link for that workshop. For more information, contact Linda Brown.
In-person day of presentations and tours, “Soil Health and Regenerative Agriculture for the Carson River Watershed”
Part of Extension’s Nevada Herds & Harvest Program, this event will be held Sept. 30 at Western States Hemp/Rambling River Ranches, 7491 Reno Highway in Fallon. Workshops and field tours will focus on principles of soil health and regenerative agriculture, and how these practices can improve farm and ranch sustainability and economics, while improving and enhancing the water quality of rivers and streams.
Local producers and soil health experts from Extension and other agencies will provide insights and lead tours of fields under regenerative agricultural practices. There will be demonstrations with equipment, and the digging of a soil pit, which allows for determination of a whole spectrum of soil properties. Sessions include:
- Introduction and Workshop Overview/Purpose, presented by Chuck Schembre, environmental scientist, Nevada Division of Environmental Protection – Bureau of Water Quality Planning; and Joe Frey, owner, farmer and workshop host.
- Soil Health Basics, presented by Jim Komar, Nevada state soil scientist, Natural Resource Conservation Service.
- The Soil and Water Connection, presented by Chuck Schembre, NDEP – Bureau of Water Quality Planning, Environmental Scientist.
- Cover Crops for Building Soil Health in Nevada, presented by Walia, Extension; and Christopher Bernau, Great Basin Plant Materials Center.
- The Producers Perspective: Soil Health Management Practice, presented by Frey, on the economics of regenerative practices; and Tim Coverston, Carson Valley grower, on diversified cover cropping, alfalfa, farm diversity and soil health fundamentals.
- Introduction to the Carson Water Subconservancy District, the Carson River Coalition Ag Working Group and our On-Farm Pilot Projects, presented by Brenda Hunt and Shane Fryer, watershed program manager and program specialist, respectively, with the District.
- The Soil Rainfall Simulator Demonstration, presented by Zahangir Kabir, NRCS regional soil health specialist.
- Rambling River Ranch Tour and Equipment Demonstrations, led by Frey. Participants will view multiple fields under regenerative ag and soil health management systems, including silage corn, alfalfa, hemp and rotation grazing systems. Field observations and discussion will include no-till practice, roller crimping, winter cover cropping, weed issues and management, adaptive grazing, adding diversity to alfalfa, improving the farm riparian corridor, and more. There will also be a soil pit dug and soil science education.
The event runs 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., with check-in beginning at 8:30 a.m. and lunch catered by Wild Horse Café at 12:15 p.m. The registration fee is $20 and includes lunch. For more information on this event, contact the event’s organizer Staci Emm, Extension educator.
Extension’s Herds & Harvest Program provides education and mentoring throughout the year to support Nevada agricultural producers. This event is hosted by the Carson River Coalition, the Beginning Farmers & Ranchers Program and Rambling River Ranch; in collaboration with local producers; Carson Water Subconservancy District; University of Nevada, Reno Extension; Natural Resource Conservation Service; local Conservation Districts; Nevada Division of Environmental Protection; and the Western Cover Crops Council – Southwestern Regional Committee. This program was funded by the USDA, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, and supported by the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA Grant # 2020-49400-32321.
Persons in need of special accommodations or assistance for either the online workshops or the in-person event should contact Paul Lessick, Extension civil rights and compliance coordinator, at least five days prior to the scheduled event with their needs or for more information.