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Soil Health Tour features local producers, innovation

Posted: Friday, Aug 2nd, 2013

Green Manure

Courier staff writer

VALLEY — Innovative, local producers invite the community to visit their fields this Friday on the third annual San Luis Valley Soil Health Tour.

This year, the tour will visit four farms where producers are implementing a variety of production methods focusing on system sustainability.

Rockey Farms' ongoing work to improve the soil’s health continues this season with a ramped up green manure mix - crops of any kind grown for use as decayable material in the soil - and specialty potato circles hosting legume companions. In addition to seeing how green manure and companion crops enhance the soil, eliminate the need for chemical amendments and attract beneficial bugs, the stop includes a trip into a soil pit for a closer look at the geological and biological elements of a healthy soil.

John Brownell and Zapata Seed have welcomed experimental plots on their farms to look at how certain species preform without irrigation and how they could be incorporated into Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) plans. Two years ago, Brownell established an Indian Rice Grass that continues to show promise, and Zapata Seed’s native vegetation trials are answering questions about what will grow in a precipitation zone seeing less than seven inches of water annually. The trials have provided the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) with data sets identifying species, seeding schedules and water requirements.

Rounding out this year’s tour is Martinez Farms. Owner Segundo Diaz is working with Agro Engineering’s Patrick O’Neill on Colorado Potato Administration Committee (CPAC) cover crop plots. Cover crops are identical to green manures, but instead of using the organic matter to enhance the soil, it is cultivated with priority placed on protecting the soil from erosion. The purpose of the plots is to identify species that will grow in the Valley’s rugged environment.

A meal with additional presentations and a roundtable discussion will finish off the day.

The grassroots San Luis Valley Soil Health Group and a number of sponsors are behind the tour, which is drawing national interest and guests including Commissioner of Agriculture and Valley native John Salazar, Trinidad State Junior College, Colorado State University, Coors, the United States Department of Agriculture and others.

The free tour begins and ends at Compost Technologies, 52101 County Road G, Center, at 1 p.m. Transportation for the tour will be provided.

To RSVP for the tour, call or e-mail Christina Barnes at 719-589-6432 X 137 or christina.barnes@co.usda.gov.

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