Cooperatove Conservation Project
COOPERATIVE CONSERVATION CASE STUDY

Restoring Farmland in Nevada

Private landowners and conservation partners join to protect abandoned farmland

Location: Far West Region: Nevada

Project Summary: Conservation partners are working to find ways, both vegetative and non-vegetative, to permanently protect farmland soils from wind erosion after irrigation water is removed.
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Soil ridges are formed to help disrupt surface winds and protect emerging seedlings of drought tolerant plants. Photo by Rod Dahl, Resource Conservationist, NRCS, Nevada.
Resource Challenge

Irrigation water is critical to the production of crops in this area where the average annual rainfall is about 4 inches.  The sale of surface water rights on Swingle Bench has resulted in a significant acreage of privately-owned, previously farmed lands (75 plus years), without irrigation.  Once irrigation water is removed, the abandoned crop fields are unable to sustain adequate vegetative cover as the remaining vegetation quick dies out, leaving a bare soil condition that is extremely susceptible to wind erosion.  Rapid desertification is occurring in this area that is further intensified during drought conditions.

Health risks, air quality, vehicle safety, personal property damage, and excessive off-site costs are all associated with the resultant wind erosion.  Degradation of soil quality, adverse affects to water quality, loss of wildlife habitat, and loss of property value, are additional concerns that have been identified. 

The Swingle Bench demonstration project, located in a highly visible, controlled, setting can be an effective mechanism to assist planning agencies and local governments in developing effective management recommendations following land use change, and prevent further and future degradation of the natural resources of Churchill County .  Additionally, demonstration of proper management and re-vegetation planning will promote new technology and can be a very effective educational tool.

Long-term protection from soil erosion on abandoned farmlands will help ensure sustainability within the Newlands Project, but will require significant change in planning for the conversion of farmed land to non-irrigated, idle, lands. 

Much of Western US agriculture faces similar challenges in the future as the demand for alternative uses of agricultural water increases. 

 

 

 

 

Examples of Key Partners

Local landowners, the Lahontan Conservation District, Western Nevada Resource Conservation and Development Council, Churchill County Planning Department, and Truckee-Carson Irrigation District have initiated a demonstration project to evaluate alternative plant materials and supporting cultural practices to address resource problems associated with abandoned farmlands in the Swingle Bench area. Technical assistance for the project is provided by the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Plant Materials Program.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Results and Accomplishments

• The primary objective of the project is to demonstrate and evaluate the effectiveness of vegetative and non-vegetative means to permanently protect abandoned farmland soils from wind erosion following the removal of irrigation water.

 • Evaluating the effectiveness of establishing vegetation on severely altered and degraded soils applying only supplemental irrigation.

 • Evaluate the persistence (permanence) of revegetated areas as irrigation water is removed.

 • Determine the effectiveness of proposed cultural practices and specific plant materials to disrupt surface winds and control soil erosion,

 • Establish a planning process to prevent future/further soil erosion and to provide local planning agencies and land owners alternatives to protect properties and natural resources from degradation,

 

 

 

 

Innovation/Highlight

Conservation partners are working to find ways, both vegetative and non-vegetative, to permanently protect farmland soils from wind erosion after irrigation water is removed.

Project Contact
Rod Dahl
Resource Conservationist
USDA NRCS
1365 Corporate Blvd.
Reno, NV 89502
(775) 857-8500 x 146
rod.dahl@nv.usda.gov
Liz Warner
Public Affairs Specialist
USDA NRCS
1365 Corporate Blvd.
Reno, NV 89502
(775) 857-8500 x 105
liz.warner@nv.usda.gov
Website: www.nv.nrcs.usda.gov

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