Basalt, CO - Farmers and ranchers in the Roaring Fork Valley are coping with the effects of prolonged drought. Roaring Fork Conservancy (RFC) recognizes the value and complexities of local agriculture. To this end, RFC is partnering with several producers, Lotic Hydrological consulting, and Pitkin County Open Space to explore opportunities of enhancing the resilience of ranching operations in the Roaring Fork Valley in times of water shortage. The project team is interested in identifying means for mitigating against the impacts of drought on productivity in mid- to high-elevation grass pastures and hay fields—the dominant agricultural land use in the Roaring Fork Valley. The study will work to identify field-scale treatments that can be used to minimize (or eliminate) reductions in crop yields and forage quality that are expected in times of limited water supply.
Soil and irrigation treatments will be applied to three separate fields, which all currently receive irrigation and produce perennial crops of grass hay and alfalfa. At each location, two soil treatments will be applied across separate 1-acre swaths. One acre will receive a mechanical aeration treatment. The other will receive a slurry application of biochar followed by mechanical aeration and harrowing. A third acre will be reserved as a control and will receive neither mechanical aeration nor biochar. One-half of each of the 1-acre soil treatment swaths will receive normal irrigation water across the entire growing season. The other half of each swath will receive irrigation water for a limited period in the early growing season, immediately following application of the soil treatments. No further irrigation water will be applied across the irrigation season. The deficit irrigation treatment is intended to simulate the effects of drought.
Soil amendment work will take place this fall, with forage samples continuing through the 2024 irrigation season. Once complete, study results will be shared with agriculture and watershed groups regionally and statewide.
This project is made possible by funding from the Colorado Ag Water Alliance, the Colorado Basin Roundtable, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, and a generous donation from Atlantic Aviation.
“Atlantic Aviation is proud to support Roaring Fork Conservancy in their local Drought Resiliency Project to identify real, actionable, and economically feasible ways to limit impacts on Colorado’s water supply. We are deeply committed to supporting sustainability and community resiliency projects and we believe that RFC’s innovative approach to addressing local water challenges aligns with our community sponsorship ethos; we’re excited to be a partner in finding ways to drive positive impact in the Roaring Fork Valley,” Eric Newman, Vice President - Commercial Strategy and Sustainability at Atlantic Aviation.
Since 1996, Roaring Fork Conservancy has inspired people to explore, value, and protect the Roaring Fork Watershed. We bring people together to protect our rivers and work to keep water in local streams, monitor water quality, and preserve riparian habitat. Roaring Fork Conservancy is an independent, 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization. For more information call (970) 927-1290 or visit www.roaringfork.org.