story to find out more.
Dennis Corwin sits on the salt-encrusted edge of an evaporation pond that holds
water drained from nearby irrigated fields. Corwin and colleagues have found a
way to shrink these space-consuming and potentially harmful ponds, while
cultivating a new crop in the process. Click the image for more information
Turning Evaporation Ponds into Arable Land
Peabody September 12, 2005
A unique way to reduce space-stealing evaporation ponds in
Californiaand nurture a new crop in the processhas been developed
by Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
scientists and cooperators.
In the agricultural valleys of Central California, some evaporation
ponds aren't worth keeping. Farmers who tend the region's heavily irrigated
lands use these ponds to catch excess runoff draining from saturated fields.
On the west side of California's San Joaquin Valley, for every nine
acres of land in production, one acre is needed for an evaporation pond,
according to ARS soil scientist
Corwin. For many growers in the valley trying to raise cotton, wheat and
alfalfa, this can represent hundreds, if not thousands, of lost acres.
Not only that, but these vast ponds have also been found to contain
concentrated salts and trace elements, including selenium, boron and arsenic,
that can be toxic to wildlife and migratory birds seeking a watering hole in
Corwin, who works at ARS'
E. Brown, Jr., Salinity Laboratory in Riverside, Calif., and researchers at
the University of California (UC) at
Davis and UC-Riverside experimented to
see if water pumped from an evaporation pond could actually be used to help
nourish a tough and hardy forage crop.
If so, the pond's waters might start drying up, benefitting growers
and wildlife and helping make less-arable land profitable again.
The team of soil, plant and animal experts is in the sixth year of
their project. According to Corwin, the test cropa salt-loving Bermuda
grassappeared to languish at first, given its less-than-favorable
environment. But now it is lush and supporting a herd of beef cattle.
According to Corwin, the project exemplifies how even poor water and
soil conditions can be overcome with the right combination of scientific
knowledge and farmer expertise.
about this research in the current issue of Agricultural Research
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.