FARMERS HONORED ...

Farmers honored for conservation efforts

“Agricultural Groundwater Conservationist of the Year” Awards presented

From left to right: David Stratta – Director (Agriculture); Trey Skiles – Skiles Family Brazos River Farm (Robertson County); Bill Harris – Director (City of College Station), hidden behind Trey Skiles; Tom McDonald – Director (City of Bryan); Harry Moore – M&M Farms (Brazos County); Jerry Moore – M&M Farms (Brazos County); Mark Carrabba – Director (Agriculture); Pete Brien – Board President.

HEARNE, Texas — The Brazos Valley Groundwater Conservation District (BVGCD) awarded the “Agricultural Groundwater Conservationist of the Year” award to two area farming entities at a ceremony held prior to the Tri-County Crops Winter Meeting January 22nd. The award honors agriculturalists that strive to reduce the impact of their groundwater use on District aquifers.

M&M Farms, owned by Jerry and Harry Moore, has for the past eight years made a serious commitment to implement water conservation programs. Having farmed in the Brazos River Bottoms in southern Brazos County for decades, the Moores implemented a plan in 2006 to begin converting their 1,200 acres of furrow irrigated cropland to pivot irrigation. The reasoning behind the move was to allow for timely watering which furrow irrigation did not provide. Leaving the irrigation set long enough to adequately water all the rows did not allow enough time to get to all sections of the farm in a timely manner. Not having to contend with overwatering of certain rows in order to meet the needs of plants further down the row, water was conserved immediately.

By 2013, the entire farm had been converted to pivot irrigation and flat planting of crops was started. On the heels of flat planting came strip-tilling. Tilling only the area in the planted row and leaving the middles uncultivated left valuable moisture available for the crop. As a side benefit, their soils became healthier as earthworms returned providing an avenue for increased absorption on rainfall and irrigation. The Moores have benefitted by receiving another reduction of supplemental water needed to finish a crop.

The Skiles Family Brazos River Farm in Robertson County, owned by Dr. Clifford Skiles, Jr. and Trey Skiles, consists of approximately 9,000 acres on which they implement as many water conservation methods as possible.

According to the soil type, the Skiles have made every effort to use pivot irrigation where feasible and to optimize the use of water on crops that have been furrow planted. Tail waters pit are constructed to recycle excess water. Land leveling is implemented on about 500 acres per year to ensure a minimum of water overflow. Soil amendments such as adding gypsum are regularly administered to improve the soils ability to leach out salt deposits accumulated from previous irrigations.

The Skiles have groundwater available from both the Brazos River Alluvium and the Simsboro aquifers. The water from each of these aquifers has attributes that are detrimental to optimum plant growth and production. It was discovered that by blending the two, the quality was enhanced and became very desirable for crop production.

GPS is used to form the contour levies for enhancement of flood irrigation water used on their rice crop. They also annually purchase surface water to supplement groundwater production lessening the pressure on groundwater resources. In 2014, an evapotranspiration weather station was installed to aid in more precise timing of irrigation.

“We applaud the efforts of the Moore and Skiles families to conserve groundwater and to be good stewards of our natural resource”, says Alan Day, General Manager of the Brazos Valley Groundwater Conservation District. “They are committed to using the amount of water necessary to produce a crop and no more, recognizing not only the value of our groundwater resources but the need to conserve and preserve it for future generations. It is this type of commitment that is needed to address the conservation of our Brazos Valley aquifers,” Day said.

The Directors of the Brazos Valley Groundwater Conservation District are charged with the mission to conserve, preserve, and protect the groundwater located beneath Brazos and Robertson counties. The Board is comprised of eight members, four from each of the two counties, representing municipal, rural water, agricultural, and industrial interests.

—Alan M. Day, General Manager, BVGCD

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Farmers honored for conservation efforts

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