story to find out more.
Farmer Dave Goracke (left), NRCS fish biologist
Kathryn Boyer and ARS agronomist Jeffrey Steiner look at native wetland plants
established in a seasonal drainage next to a perennial ryegrass seed field.
Click the image for more information about it.
Grass Farming and the Environment
October 5, 2005
Under the right circumstances, grass
seed farmers in Oregons Willamette Valley can make a profit--and help
wildlife to thrive--during the rainy fall and winter seasons, according to
Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
scientists and cooperators.
From October to May, the valley averages 37 inches of rain, which flows over
the region's grass seed fields into seasonal channels. Western pond turtles,
Chinook salmon, redside shiners, red-legged frogs and many other aquatic
creatures thrive in the vibrant channels, with nearby trees and brush
supporting even more wildlife.
ARS researchers at the
Seed and Cereal Research Unit in Corvallis, working with Oregon State
University (OSU) scientists, are
determining which species use the channels and how farmers manage these fields
to preserve natural resources.
Nearly all the fish found in the channels are native to the Willamette
Valley. Scientists believe thats because land use there has changed
little over time. Today's grass seed fields are similar to the wet prairie
grasslands that covered the region before settlers introduced agriculture.
The ARS scientists discovered that many fish take shelter in the seasonal
Steiner observed that some even reproduce and find nursery habitats there.
Mueller uses Geographic Information System tools and satellite images to
determine which conservation practices are being used in areas thriving with
fish and wildlife. Hydrologist
Whittaker develops computer programs for calculating economical
combinations of conservation practices.
Many of these practices preserve water quality. According to ARS plant
M. Griffith, no-till farming--which doesn't disturb soil--also maintains
water quality, boosts seed yields and saves farmers nearly $80 per acre,
compared to conventional tillage.
Mark Mellbye, an OSU extension agronomist, works with farmers using
conservation practices such as planting wildlife buffers and maintaining
drainage and field border vegetation.
According to Steiner, many local farmers expressed interest in conservation
and allowed the scientists to conduct research on their fields.
more about the research in the October 2005 issue of Agricultural
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agricultures chief in-house scientific research agency.