The world’s soil is in trouble. Ecologists say without dramatic changes to how we manage land, vast swathes of grassland are at risk of turning into hard-packed desert. Farmers and ranchers know in a few decades they’ll have to feed a lot more people, while at the same time, keep the soil healthy and make money doing it. KUNC and Harvest Public Media reporter Luke Runyon takes us to eastern Colorado, where researchers are turning to some unexpected partners to revive the soil.
As the special monitoring projects coordinator for the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory, Jason Beason has surveyed yellow billed cuckoos and monitored the breeding sites of great blue herons, snowy egrets and other water birds. KVNF’s Marty Durlin spoke to Jason at the farm he owns with his wife Kerry near the North Fork of the Gunnison.
Afternoon clouds and occasional rains have dotted the Western Slope in the past few weeks, but that doesn’t mean people aren’t still worried about their water.
Last week Matthew Harris posted on the Almanac that the water he gets from German Creek was called on by a senior rights holder for the first time in the eight years he’s lived in Paonia. His creek’s just one of many that snake across the North Fork Valley, but if it’s been that long since that senior rights holder felt like they needed more water, should other residents and farmers be concerned?
Herb Anderson parks his plane on the tarmac at the North Fork Valley Airport in Paonia. He’s one of a handful of pilots and aviation fans out for a Saturday-morning “fly-in, drive-in” breakfast. Like some of the others here today, his plane is “experimental,” which basically just means he built it himself.
Born and raised just west of Olathe, Herb started flying when he was a sophomore at Olathe High School, or as he tells it, when he wasn't there: he used to play hookie to take flying lessons.
When unapproved genetically modified wheat was found growing in Oregon earlier this year, it didn’t take long for accusations about how it ended up there to start flying. A flurry of initial finger-pointing cast potential blame on a federal seed vault in Fort Collins, Colo., which housed the same strain of wheat, developed by Monsanto Corp., for about seven years up until late 2011.
In early July, Colorado designated 14 counties "primary natural disaster areas" due to agricultural losses caused by the recent and ongoing drought. Several of those counties are in the San Luis Valley in south central Colorado. Farmers there are now eligible for low interest emergency loans, but as KGNU’s Maeve Conran reports, that may not be enough for this agricultural hub, which is facing a long term water crisis that could permanently affect the entire valley.