Free irrigation advice offered for small acreage farms

Across the Grand Valley, many farms have been divided into small acreage portions of land, which residents looking for a more rural lifestyle have purchased. Irrigation management may not always be a top priority for some landowners and that can lead to inefficient irrigation practices.

The Small Acreage Irrigation Ambassador program, offered through the Colorado State University Extension office, hopes to help improve those irrigation practices.

The free service educates residents with 100 acres or fewer of land about precisely how much water is necessary.

“We’re trying to give them a hand in figuring out how to efficiently water,” said John Rizza, small acreage management specialist with CSU Extension.

Many small acreage owners have a tendency to overwater, which can lead to excessive soil saturation and runoff or unwanted ponding, and mosquito breeding grounds.

Soils in the Grand Valley also tend to have a high salt content, and overwatering can cause that salt to leach into the rivers, Rizza said. 

“If we apply water effectively, we’re helping keep that salt where it needs to be. That way, we’re protecting that soil, the environment and water in the river,” he said.

In partnership with the Mesa County Conservation District, Grand Valley Irrigators, the Grand River Mosquito Control District and other agencies, CSU Extension launched the program in 2010.

“It’s kind of a pilot program and we’re trying to expand if possible. It’s just a matter of if we can get funding,” Rizza said.

The goal is to expand to neighboring Delta and Montrose counties and maybe even the Front Range.

Interested landowners can contact the extension office and make an appointment with the ambassador, Darrell Rule.

“It’s good to have someone who knows what they’re doing to go out and help those folks,” Rizza said.

Having previously farmed and ranched in Steamboat Springs, Rule and his wife moved to Grand Junction several years ago and now own Willow Bend Iris Farm at 2331 J Road. In 2011, CSU Extension hired him for the part-time ambassador job.

Rule visits each location and assesses watering practices and systems, examines soils and looks for opportunities to improve plant health and reduce costs and labor needs. So far, he has made 15 to 20 visits a month during irrigation season.

“Some people are surprised to learn how much water they are using,” Rule said. “When we can help them maximize their experience, then that’s good for everyone.”

To set up an appointment or for information, contact Rule: therules@q.com or at 270-2161, or contact CSU Extension at 221-3346.



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