Revitalizing Pastures and Controlling Weeds Through Soil Health/Exploring Alternative Crops in the San Luis Valley Using Reduced Irrigation

Southern Region

Rio Grande 


(Alamosa, Conejos, Costilla, Saguache)

Primary Topic:

Food and Agriculture

Other Topics:

Natural Resources and Sustainability

Lead Mentor:  

Larry Brown

San Luis Valley Extension Director and Ag Agent

Internship Overview:

We are requesting two interns to help us with these two projects. The successful students for this internship will be joining both the SLV Area Extension team and the SLV Research Center team and will be making a real contribution in conducting field research trials that have the potential to significantly impact the natural resource health of the San Luis Valley, and as a result, potentially have a positive economic impact on the local community. In the SLV Area Extension, everything we do fosters healthy kids and families, prosperous farms, ranches, and business, and strong, resilient, and proud communities.

The San Luis Valley is a major agricultural area, generating $350-$450 million in income per year and is totally dependent on irrigation. Because of ongoing drought and historically high-water use, our aquifer is dropping. As a result, we are in danger of the state engineer shutting off irrigation wells and drying up farmland. The economic impact would be devastating, not only to farmers, but to all the communities in the San Luis Valley which are largely dependent on the agriculturally based economy.

Simultaneously, there are exciting new developments and interest in improving soil health. Earlier field trials have shown great promise in both increasing the growth and vigor of desirable plants and, as a result, helping those plants outcompete weeds. This is accomplished by improving soil micronutrients and soil function rather than by use of traditional fertilizers and herbicides.

It is our role as CSU Extension and San Luis Valley Research Center personnel, to help identify these possibilities, take on the risk of doing trials on potential alternative crops and production systems, and to engage with our ag producers and communities on what is learned.

All work will be in the San Luis Valley. Housing is available at the CSU Research Farm in Center. The intern will be spending time at the SLV Area Extension office in Monte Vista and will be doing field work in Saguache, Rio Grande, Alamosa, and Conejos counties. This will be the second year for these trials.

Goals, Scope and Objectives:

The students will have the opportunity to meet and form working alliances with a diverse group of stakeholders, including agricultural producers, agri-business owners, CSU Extension agents and specialists, CSU Researchers, county commissioners, Conservation District board members, and county weed management professionals. The student will be meeting people who are active in their industry and who are in leadership roles in their communities.

The students will work directly with the Agent and other mentors, gaining firsthand experience in designing and conducting field research trials and demonstration plots, collecting and analyzing data, and designing Extension educational events to present what we learn to stakeholders. The student will gain boots-on-the-ground experience with soil testing, plant tissue testing, planting and irrigating a crop, and what it means to an Extension professional.

With which stakeholder group(s) will the intern work?

1. Local rangeland and irrigated farmland producers
2. CSU Extension Agents and San Luis Valley Research Center personnel
3. County commissioners and other county entities involved with agriculture and water
4. Local agri-business owners

What student learning outcomes do you anticipate and what are the opportunities for professional development?

1. Students will gain experience designing and conducting field research trials.
2. Students will gain an understanding of the complex issues involved with rangeland and irrigated agriculture in the San Luis Valley.
3. Students will learn about proper techniques for soil and plant tissue sampling and application methods of various treatments in the study.
4. Students will enhance their communication skills (both verbal and written) through contacts with several different producers and industry partners.
5. Students will have the potential of making professional contacts that could lead to employment opportunities in the future.
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