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Walker Basin Field Day and barbecue on Sept. 2, 2010

Posted 8/18/2010

Community members are invited to see the third-year results at the Walker Basin Project’s alternative agriculture and revegetation site in Mason Valley. The third Walker Basin Project Field Day and lunch will be Thursday, Sept. 2 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the 5C Cottonwood Ranch off Highway 339 near Yerington. The ranch has a large white gate and is about five miles south of the town of Mason directly north of Wilson Canyon.

Residents will have the opportunity to visit with researchers and learn more about the agriculture sites established to study the feasibility of growing low-water-use grains that may be profitable for farmers, native grasses and shrubs for revegetation on the land with little water, and warm and cool season grasses for biomass. This effort is part of the continued, "phase II" research by the University of Nevada, Reno and DRI, funded through the Walker Basin Project. The field day will include a presentation about the alternative agriculture project, its goals and progress to date, a tour of the site, and a question and answer session followed by a barbecue lunch.

"We had a much bigger problem with weeds this year," said Jay Davison, area forage and alternative crops specialist with the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. "We used a mixture of control methods three times this year and still had tremendous weed pressure on all the tested crops. We’re finding out just how difficult weed control can be with these alternative crops for which no herbicides are registered for weed control."

According to Davison, all the crops are late this year due to the cold weather in the spring and frost damage that resulted in a second planting for the annul grains. The warm and cool season biomass crops will be ready for harvest and participants will be able to see these species just prior to harvest.

Native grasses and shrubs were planted two years ago on the revegetation plots, and shrubs were introduced into the grass plots last fall.

"We put one acre foot of water the past two years on these plots, and it worked well," said Davison. "This amount of water was more than enough for the revegetation species to grow successfully." The revegetation plots received no supplemental irrigation in 2010 and the various species are reacting differently to the lack of water.

Additional experiments were established in 2010 to evaluate different agronomic and weed control practices on teff, the most successful of the alternative grains tested. Researchers also established a new experiment to test revegetation techniques in an established alfalfa stand.

"The information we gather through the Walker Basin Project will be of value throughout western Nevada, an area with only four to five inches of precipitation a year," said Davison, who has been working on a smaller scale with alternative crops for the past five years. "It’s important we establish desirable vegetation on land instead of allowing noxious weeds to grow or leaving it as bare, blowing soil."

To make a reservation to attend the field day and barbecue, call the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension office in Fallon at 775-423-5121.

For more information about the Walker Basin Project, visit the recently redesigned Web site at www.nevada.edu/walker/.

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