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Category: Conservation

Texas Water District, USDA Partner to Show Producers Way to Use Water Wisely

Micro-subsurface drip irrigation

Multiple cropping systems were used in the demonstration including corn and cotton. Micro-subsurface drip irrigation was one of the irrigation systems used to irrigate crops and conserve water.

In the High Plains of Texas, water reigns. The area is one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world, making a reliable water supply key to the area’s rural economies.

The High Plains draws its water from the Ogallala Aquifer, an underground aquifer that spans eight states. Currently, the use of groundwater from the aquifer is unsustainable as withdrawals for cities, farms, ranches, industries and other uses exceed the natural recharge of the aquifer. Read more »

Regional Conservation Partnership Program – New Partners, New Resources, New Ideas

NRCS Chief Jason Weller (far right) touring acequias in New Mexico

NRCS Chief Jason Weller (far right) completes his tour of acequias in New Mexico at the oldest continuously functioning acequia in the United States – the Acequia de Chamita, near Espanola, New Mexico – in operation since 1597. With Chief Weller are (left to right) Gilbert Borrego, NRCS New Mexico Acequia Civil Engineering Technician; Kenny Salazar, President of the New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts; and Bren van Dyke, First Vice President of the National Association of Conservation Districts. Photo by Rey T. Adame.

Last week, I visited with local communities in northern New Mexico. Many of these communities rely on irrigation ditches, called acequias, as their primary water source in an otherwise arid region. These are ditches that were used by their parents, and their grandparents, and their great-grand parents. Some acequias in the area date back more than 400 years.

Through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), NRCS is working with acequia communities and partners across the state of New Mexico to improve water quality, water quantity, and boost the overall health of these local irrigation ditches that so many rural American communities depend on. The Acequia San Rafael del Guique, for example, provides water for roughly 150 people in the Ohkay Owengeh and El Guique communities – it’s being revitalized as part of our RCPP project in the state. Read more »

A Hedge against Drought: Why Healthy Soil is ‘Water in the Bank’

Niagra Falls infographic

As soil health improves, so too does its hydrologic function. This graphic illustrates how much additional water could be stored in the soil of all U.S. cropland with the addition of 1 percent of organic matter.

While most look to the sky for drought relief, an increasing number of farmers are looking to the soil. And for good reason: Healthy soils capture and store much more water – which can come in handy during dry spells.

Through its “Unlock the Secrets in the Soil” campaign, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is leading the effort to get more farmers and ranchers to adopt soil health management systems for a wide range of on- and off-farm benefits – including drought resiliency.

So what’s the water-banking secret in healthy soil? Read more »

Interactive Map Compares Past and Present Snowpack – Western Snowpack Levels Very Low

Current snowpack map

The new, interactive map lets you compare current snowpack data to historical records.

Western snowpack, where it remains, is in full melt.

All along the Cascades and Sierra Nevada are ski courses that never opened, bare mountains and snowless SNOTEL sites where snowpack is measured. Where snow accumulated, it melted prematurely during a warm March. One of the most common questions for snow surveyors has been: how does this winter compare to the past?

A new, interactive map shows you exactly how it compares. The online map, just released by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, shows regularly updated current conditions – alongside historical records – for the entire NRCS snow survey network. Read more »

A Greenhouse Garden Inspires an Urban New Orleans School

Dr. Joe Leonard speaking to the students

Dr. Joe Leonard speaks to the students. NRCS photo.

Tucked in the middle of a mixed commercial and residential area of New Orleans still struggling to recover from the effects of Hurricane Katrina, is Carter G. Woodson Middle School − a state of the art public charter school known as Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) Central City Academy.

As I wandered through the garden taking pictures and preparing for guests to arrive for the Greenhouse Garden Club ribbon cutting ceremony, I was intrigued by the markers made by students identifying the plants in the beds and statements about working hard and respecting the garden. 

“Hello miss! Our teacher sent us out here to keep you company,” said seventh-grader Keyira Powell.  She was accompanied by another student, Clifton Desilva who mostly stood in silence while Keyira − clearly a school ambassador – eagerly began telling me about the gardening club. Read more »

Measuring Environmental Effects of Conservation Practices

Drip irrigation

Drip irrigation is a system used to deliver slow, precise application of water and nutrients to a plant roots zone. This system maintains an optimum moisture level within the root zones, efficiently conserving water and helps prevent runoff while providing the proper balance of water and air needed for successful plant growth. USDA photo by Alice Welch.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research profile.

Have you ever heard the saying, “In God we trust, all others bring data?” Those are the words of William Edwards Deming, a distinguished American statistician and researcher. As an agricultural statistician at USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), collecting and distributing reliable data are the most important things I do. The data we provide help shape many key decisions about all sorts of things related to agriculture, including conservation practices.

But I don’t only collect and distribute data. I get to administer the Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) survey – something I’m especially proud of. CEAP is a major project led by our sister agency the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The results of the survey contribute to a first-hand look into how operators maintain agricultural lands for tomorrow. This insight is so important because soil erosion, climate change, water shortages, and feeding ever-increasing populations are common concerns today. Read more »