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Ag Day focuses on drought

If history repeats itself, the Western Slope could receive higher than normal rain and snowfall from now through April. That’s what Harold Larsen told a crowd gathered at the New Castle Community Center Wednesday for the 12th annual Ag Day, a free seminar.Larsen is a fruit pathologist at Colorado State University’s Orchard Mesa Research Center near Grand Junction. He said studies indicate the Western Slope has a 70 percent chance of receiving above-normal precipitation now through the end of April. That trend is based on typical weather patterns seen in years with El Nio currents in the Pacific Ocean, like this year.That was good news to the more than 100 farmers, ranchers and interested citizens listening to Larsen’s presentation Wednesday morning. Kelly Rogers, assistant district forester for Colorado State Forest Service, also put a positive spin on the West’s current state of water. Bristlecone pines, he said, are some of the oldest organisms on earth, some living 2,000 years or more. Using bristlecone pine tree rings from New Mexico as a guide, the West has measured above normal precipitation levels in recent years, when compared with the 1800s, and especially when compared with the severe drought of the 1600s.”As foresters, we tend to take long-term views,” he said. “This might help you put our current drought into a better perspective.”Larsen’s and Rogers’ observations might be the only good news the Ag Day crowd has heard recently about Western Colorado water as they deal with the continuing drought. Dennis Davidson, district conservationist for the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service, said this year’s Ag Day had the highest attendance ever.”It keeps growing every year,” he said of locals’ interest in dedicating a full day to discussing agriculture issues. NRCS and the Bookcliff, South Side and Mount Sopris Conservation Districts present the day, including lunch, free of charge, to the public. Other speakers also focused on water and drought issues. Kathy Holley, a water conservation coordinator for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Western Colorado office, introduced a new product called polyacrylamide, or PAM. It can save up to 90 percent of seepage water losses in irrigation ditches, she said. Holley and Max Schmidt, an NRCS soil conservation technician, distributed samples of the granular PAM and demonstrated how to apply it in ditches. They also passed out application requests to those interested in using PAM to conserve ditch water, and said they can help with the application process. Contact Kathy Holley at (970) 248-0622 for applications and information on PAM. Roy Roath, CSU range specialist, offered information about restoring hayfields and pastures during drought. tree care during drought-Use wood chips, shredded bark, leaves or evergreen needles around trees to reduce moisture loss. -Coil a soaker hose several times around a tree to water. A tree’s root systems extend outward up to two to four times the height of the tree. -As a general rule, use approximately 10 gallons of water per inch of trunk diameter, twice a month. Source: Kelly Rogers, Colorado State Forest Service


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