Building productivity and soil health with erosion control structures in arid rangelands: effects of organic amendments and seeding.

Project Overview

OW21-362
Project Type: Professional + Producer
Funds awarded in 2021: $74,932.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2023
Grant Recipient: Quivira Coalition
Region: Western
State: New Mexico
Principal Investigator:
Eva Stricker
Quivira Coalition

Commodities

  • Animals: bovine

Practices

  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Natural Resources/Environment: soil stabilization

    Proposal abstract:

    Erosion on rangelands threatens soil health and in turn the productivity of plants, livestock, and producers. Extreme rainfall and drought are exacerbating risks of sheet erosion, and thus we must find rapid, effective ways to reduce erosion. To increase plant establishment and productivity, interest is growing in using organic amendments and native seeding with erosion control structures. We want to ask 1) does adding organic matter and/or 2) does adding propagules improve vegetation development in an actively eroding area? We propose to build media lunas on 18 headcuts on each of five dryland ranches and compare compost, mulch, and no organic amendments, with and without dryland grass seed additions. We will measure vegetation composition and biomass, soil moisture, infiltration rate, aggregate stability and other physical and chemical properties, and erosion or accretion in headcut channels. Understanding which treatment combinations yield the most rapid benefits will allow ranchers to evaluate costs and outcomes for better decision making. We will hold workshops at each ranch, three to demonstrate how to build the structures and deploy the organic amendments, and two to demonstrate how to monitor for plant and soil health after one year. We will additionally write white papers of economic analyses and peer-reviewed publications of the ecological results and present at the REGENERATE conference and Down to Earth podcast to disseminate to both producers and technical service providers working in these highly erodible lands. We will build soil health through living roots and surface cover to restore degraded working drylands.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Objective 1: Ameliorate 18 active headcuts on each of five ranches using erosion control structures and determine the optimal combination of organic amendment and seeding to improve plant productivity, soil health, and reduce erosion

    • Submit peer-reviewed publication of results.

    Objective 2: Determine the cost of each combination relative to the outcome

    • Write white paper of results

    Objective 3: Empower local producers to make changes in their operations to reduce erosion and improve soil health 

    • Conduct 5 workshops, present at the REGENERATE conference and Down to Earth podcast for regional outreach.
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.