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UNR Hopes to Help NV Farmers Survive Extreme Drought

PHOTO: The University of Nevada, Reno hopes several workshops being held around the state help farmers survive another year of extreme drought. Photo courtesy USDA.
PHOTO: The University of Nevada, Reno hopes several workshops being held around the state help farmers survive another year of extreme drought. Photo courtesy USDA.
March 12, 2014

RENO, Nevada - Helping Nevada farmers survive another year of severe drought is what the University of Nevada-Reno hopes to do by holding several workshops across the state.

Jay Davison, crop specialist at the university's Cooperative Extension, said they'll focus on water availability, recommended irrigation practices, insurance options and an outlook on prices. He said he hopes growers can brush up on proven growing strategies, including how early irrigation can yield a bigger crop.

"If you have limited water, you're much better off to fully irrigate your crop early in the season," he said, "because your water-use efficiency - that is, the amount of material produced, say tons per acre - is higher earlier in the season than it is later in the season."

Davison said Nevada farmers depend entirely on irrigation water to grow crops, adding that some areas will have little or no water to irrigate this year. The dry autumn and winter greatly diminished snowpack in the mountains that melts to provide the water for irrigation, he said.

The workshops are for all farmers, but Davison urged alfalfa and hay producers to attend because those crops make up about 90 percent of the state's farmland. While Nevada and much of the Southwest seem to operate in perpetual drought conditions, he said, this year is extreme by any standard.

"I started working professionally in Nevada in 1980," he said. "I've worked continuously and have not left the state as far as from an employment standpoint that entire time, and this is by far the worst I've ever seen."

Davison predicted that the drought will likely put some farmers out of business, and said those with little or no debt have the best chance of staying afloat.

The workshops start March 20 in Fallon, and will be held in four other communities - Eureka, Minden, Schurz and Yerington - through the end of April. Davison said people can register early or just show up.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - NV