The Natural Resource Report can be heard every Wednesday at 4:17pm. You will hear the latest from cooperating Natural Resource Districts: Middle Republican, Upper Republican, Lower Republican, Tri-Basin, Central Platte, and Little Blue NRD's. For more information on any of the 23 Natural Resource Districts in Nebraska go here!
If you listen to this program often, you know that the Natural Resources Districts in Nebraska manage many different water issues including water quality, water quantity and flood control. Did you know that we are also responsible for managing grassland? The Central Platte NRD began addressing grassland management issues in 2004 by implementing our Prescribed Fire Program. The NRD fire crew has treated over 18,000 acres in central Nebraska.
Just recently, the Central Platte NRD was awarded a Grassland Conservation grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust to reclaim and preserve up to 12,000 acres of crucial habitat in Dawson County and other areas heavily infested with Eastern Red Cedar. The goal is to remove seed source through mechanical tree clearing and prescribed burning.
The NRD is currently seeking landowners interested in participating in this pilot program and has set up cost share programs, such as deferred grazing, that coincide with management practices needed to ensure the long-term effectiveness in treating these areas.
John Thorburn with Tri-Basin NRD, with the Natural Resources Report.
Heavy spring rains in Colorado, Wyoming and western Nebraska are causing widespread flooding along the Platte River. The Platte River at Kearney has been above flood stage since May 17, and it is expected to remain at that level for at least the next week. The water in the river now is mostly originating from the South Platte River in Colorado, but the North Platte River is flooding as well. Lake McConaughy is expected to be completely full within the next ten days or so, then water will need to be released from the reservoir. Hopefully, South Platte flows will be declining by that time, but there is still a lot of snow in the Rocky Mountains, and that is just starting to melt.
The pioneers used to refer to the Platte as a mile wide and an inch deep. That description of the river is accurate most of the time, but the Platte watershed covers over 84,000 square miles, so widespread rains can accumulate and cause flooding.
Platte river floods have occurred regularly throughout history, but Tri-Basin and other Platte basin NRDs are now working with the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources and irrigation districts to try to reduce the impacts of floods by diverting floodwater into irrigation canals and using it to recharge groundwater supplies.
Cooperation between state and local government, as well as between groundwater and surface water users, to manage water resources is uncommon in most parts of the Nation, but its typical of the way Nebraska’s natural resources districts work to protect lives, property and the future for all Nebraskans.
Is your pasture or grassland becoming dominated by non-native cool season grasses and invasive weeds such as Eastern Redcedar? The expansion of redcedar into grasslands in the Midwest has started showing signs of ecological, social and economic impacts. Some of those impacts include a decrease in biodiversity and forage production, and an increased risk of wildfire.
The Central Platte NRD began addressing these and other rangeland management issues in 2004 when the Prescribed Fire Program was implemented. The NRD fire crew has conducted over 200 burns to treat 18,000 acres in central Nebraska. Prescribed fire is a valuable tool in controlling invasions, since redcedar does not re-sprout when the aboveground portion of the plant is killed as a result of fire; and warm season native grasses are re-established.
If you’re interested in restoring your land and grazing values, and your wildlife habitat; consider attending the NRD’s Prescribed Burn meeting this Thursday, May 14th in Grand Island. You’ll learn basic elements of burn safety and proper conditions for burning, and see drone footage of a recent NRD burn. Contact David Carr at (308) 385-6282 for more information.
I’m John Thorburn with Tri-Basin NRD and this is the Natural Resources Report. Arbor Day was celebrated last week. I hope that you are able to plant a tree or shrub this spring. Before you do that, keep in mind that planting a tree is a long-term commitment. Trees can add value to your property, but they can also become a liability. Make sure that you get the right plant for your place and purpose. Before you buy a tree, find out how big it will eventually grow, so that you don’t end up with a big tree too close to your house, power lines, or other trees. Also be sure to think about whether you want your tree to provide shade, block wind, or simply add color and beauty to your landscape. Experts also advise that you should plant the smallest tree that you can stand, not the largest tree that you can afford. A small tree won’t suffer from transplant shock, so it will start growing right away, but a large tree might take a couple years to adjust to its new surroundings
Also be sure to dial before you dig. Call the Nebraska Digger’s hotline toll-free at the number 811 at least two days before you plant your tree. You don’t want to cut your phone line or, worse yet, run into a natural gas line when you dig a hole for your tree.
Once you have selected a tree that suits your purpose and you have a site that is safe for digging, you can dig a hole. Don’t dig the hole any deeper than the tree’s roots or its container. On the other hand, the hole should be dug at least six inches wider than the container, so that the roots can grow outward into loose soil.
If you have questions about planting trees and shrubs contact your local NRD office. I’m John Thorburn for Nebraska’s Natural Resources Districts, protecting lives, property and the future since 1972.
Chemigation, also known as fertigation, is the application of agricultural chemicals into water flowing through an irrigation system-- such as fertilizers and fungicides. Chemigation is an efficient and economical means of applying inputs that are necessary for crops.
There are many advantages to using chemigation with center pivots. One advantage is chemical coverage. Properly designed and operated irrigation systems may apply chemicals more uniformly than aircraft and some ground sprayers. It allows prescription and timely application of chemicals based on the crop requirements.
Chemigation also provides savings and profit. Applying chemicals through an irrigation system can save 40 percent or more in chemical application costs. Chemigation reduces energy consumption up to 90 percent and simplifies practices. Timely fertilizer applications can significantly increase crop yields.
There are environmental and health benefits as well. Split applications result in less leaching potential for nitrates, which keeps our groundwater clean. Operator exposure to chemicals and spray drift is also reduced.
If you are considering investing in a center pivot, cost share may be available. Contact your local NRD to see what assistance is available in your area.
The Central Platte NRD provides natural resources education to students from Kindergarten to college seniors. Today I’d like to tell you about our College Scholarship Program. Do you know a college-aged student who could use $1,000? The Central Platte NRD provides $1,000 scholarships to students who are planning to major in or who are already enrolled in a natural resources field. The NRD provides ten scholarships annually to high school and current college students who reside within our District; which reaches from Gothenburg to Columbus.
Some of the majors that are eligible for the scholarship include: agronomy, biology, civil engineering, environmental studies or environmental education, geology, rangeland, hydrology, as well as many others. Applications will be accepted until March 15th. Applicants are ranked by our board of directors, with preference given to students who are already majoring in a natural resources field. You may download an application from our website at: www.cpnrd.org or call (308) 385-6282.
So if you know a college-aged student who is learning about our precious natural resources and could use $1,000 to help pay for their education, please encourage them to apply before March 15th.
Water is the key ingredient for life on Earth. Water for irrigation is also the key to agricultural prosperity on the Great Plains. We are blessed with abundant surface water and groundwater in South-Central Nebraska, but a variety of factors are combining to limit the amount of water available for agriculture.
Development of additional irrigated land in the Platte Basin is restricted to protect streamflows for endangered species like Whooping Cranes. The Republican River Compact limits how much water Nebraskans can use in that river basin. Periodic droughts also highlight the limitations of our water supply.
Farmers have responded to water use limits by improving irrigation efficiency. Over the past few years they have converted hundreds of thousands of acres of cropland from furrow irrigation to more efficient center pivot and sub-surface drip irrigation. Many farmers have also adopted no-till farming techniques that not only improve soil health, they also reduce evaporation.
Because water is so critical to Nebraska agriculture, farmers and landowners need to stay informed about rapidly-changing irrigation technology and evolving water policy. The Holdrege Water Conference, scheduled for Tuesday, February 3rd at the Phelps County Ag Center, is a great opportunity to get the latest information about water issues and best management practices for irrigation. The conference starts at 10:30 AM. There is no charge to attend and a free lunch will be served. Please plan to attend the Holdrege Water Conference on Tuesday, February 3rd at the Phelps County Ag Center.