The first session of HMI’s Drought Mitigation Land Management Workshop series was held at the Kerr Wildlife Management Area (WMA) on March 28-29th. The next session starts April 24th and registration is still open. To register, click here. There were 22 participants who manage over 51,000 acres.
At this session Holistic Management Certified Educator Peggy Sechrist opened the workshop with a brief description of HMI and the agenda and introduced the other presenters including Kerr WMA manager, Donnie Frels, range consultant Steve Nelle, and Dr. Richard Teague, range scientist with Texas AgriLife. Research
Dr. Richard Teague presented Planning for Drought: Upland Ecosystem Function, which included the need to define ourselves as regenerative and not just sustainable so that we are actually restoring ecosystem function. He said 90% of soil function is mediated by microbes. Microbes are dependent on plants, so how we manage plants is critical. Microbes need a moderate temperature; bare ground can exceed 140 degrees. He mentioned the function of termites in brittle environments is similar to the function of earthworms in non-brittle environments.
To improve soil health, we want to promote a shift to perennial plants, minimize bare ground, grow plants year around, ground cover year around.
Dr. Teague described the impact on the land/soil of continuous grazing and various other grazing strategies. The big take-aways were about “adaptive management” and the need for “multi-species” and increasing the “length of recovery” which has been previously underestimated, especially in drought and more brittle environments. Always leaving 1/2 of your pasture for the sake of the soil.
Dr. Teague made it clear that it can take up to 10 to 15 years to see these changes in brittle environments. He used examples from the Dixon Water Foundation Ranches management practices of limiting breeding, and keeping no more than 50% of breeding animals. In more brittle environments, he equated soil organic matter with water holding capacity and to profit.
Steve Nelle gave an introduction to Riparian Function giving the definitions of a perennial creek as a year around showing, a seasonal creek as water receding below surface during part of the year, and ephemeral creeks with no water table and showing water only during rainfall events.
He showed how we value running water for its sound, biodiversity, clean water, reliable supply, recreation and other aesthetics and pointed out that these riparian functions are only available if the riparian area is functioning properly, with soil, water, and vegetation working in harmony.
In a properly functioning riparian area, there is adequate vegetation to dissipate stream energy, stabilize banks, reduce erosion, trap sediment, build enlarge the floodplain, store water, offer floodwater retention, groundwater recharge, and sustain base flow. He talked of managing a watershed with run-off in water-shedding creeks vs managing for a water catchment to store and hold water, in water-catching creeks.
Participants learned about the difference between a properly functioning stream and one that is contributing to erosion. Vegetation is the key to the riparian recovery and health. A meandering creek on a property is longer in length than one that flows straight. Nature intended them to curve and meander, not to go straight. The gradient is less with a meandering creek, slowing the flow and dissipating the energy. A creek flowing straight builds up energy and flows faster off a property taking sediment with it.
Participants did a reading the land outdoor exercise, observing different ecosystem processes, bacterially and fungal dominated soils, noticing trees, cover, water cycle, etc. Next Holistic Management educator CD Pounds gave a presentation on compost teas, and beneficial micro organisms that generated lots of good questions
The following day participants discussed monitoring and did an exercise outside in small groups. This activity was followed by a long walk looking at riparian condition of the North Fork of the Guadalupe river with Steve Nelle.
The workshop was well received, and according to evaluations 100% of respondents rated all aspects of it “excellent.”
Here is what participants had to say:
· I am so appreciative of HMI and the presenters of this course. Although I have much to learn, this has really expanded my understanding.
· I learned riparian management to fix my creek, and increased understanding of soil biology.
· As an educational farm this will be extremely beneficial for our interns as well as just to monitor if our actions are helping us achieve our goals
· I intend to spend more time on soil health to improve water content and organic content and biological activity below ground by reducing capping, bare ground and composting.
· I came because I wanted to improve my damaged land but didn’t know how. I learned many ideas.
· I learned Identification of problems, methods of improvement, and best practices.
|Outcome||% of participants|
|Are you more confident in your ability to assess ecosystem function in riparian landscapes on your farm as a result of this course?||100%|
|Are you more confident in your ability to assess ecosystem function in upland landscapes on your farm as a result of this course?||100%|
|Are you more confident in your ability to monitor ecosystem health on your farm as a result of this course?||100%|
|Do you intend to change any management practices/apply ideas you learned as a result of this event?||100%|
|Do you intend to begin biological monitoring on your land to track your progress toward your goal or outcome?||100%|
|Increased knowledge of how riparian and upland landscapes function||100%|
|Increased knowledge of the value of setting up and collecting monitoring data to mitigate drought||100%|
|Increased knowledge of the value of building biological wealth during drought||93%|