Here’s another in our series of “Everything old is new again.” This story by Homer A. Taff, former State Conservationist with the Soil Conservation Service, comes to us from the November 1, 1961 edition of “Soil Conservation,” a publication of the Soil Conservation Service (now the Natural Resources Conservation Service). The practices, which some might call regenerative, are very similar to those promoted by good graziers today. In fact, removing mesquite trees and deferring grazing is part of efforts we’ve reported on in the past to enhance habitat for lesser prairie chickens and other wildlife, while producing more forage for livestock.
Brush control on rangelands is one of the conservation practices that is paying off in the Great Plains Conservation Program.
One of the main problems in Texas agriculture is the encroachment of brush – mesquite, juniper and shinnery oak. – onto millions of acres of range. Surveys have shown 55 million acres of mesquite infestation alone. This drought-defying plant spreads rapidly with the dropping of seeds by cattle and other animals.
Geting damaged and low-grade cropland into useful grass cover is a primary objective of the Great Plains Conservation Program. Work done with help from the Agricultural Conservation Program and the Conservation Reserve Program has given further impetus to this undertaking.
Reseeding drought-damaged range is another tailor-made practice, and development of dependable water for livestock is another. A third is the opportunity to make irrigation systems more efficient.
J. Frank Bennett, rancher in the Cochran Soil Conservation District, reports his range output has more than doubled since he controlled shin oak brush and reseeded 5,606 acres to adapted native species. J.L. Stuart, in the Lipscomb Soil Conservation District, had a similar observation:
“The pasture where I sprayed the brush and deferred grazing have the best grass I have ever seen on them.”
He is putting 584 acres of low-grade cropland into grass, among the practices called for in his complete Great Plains Conservation Program contract.
Grady Halbert of Foard City, chairman of the Lower Pease Soil Conservation District, who has almost completed work on two Great Plains contracts, said, “many farmers in our district would not have been able to make the conservation changes, they needed without the kind of help the Great Plains Conservation Program gave them.”
Banker O.R. Stark, Jr. of Quitaque, in the Cap Rock Soil Conservation District, took a close look at the Great Plains Conservation Program when it was announced, and became an active supporter of the program, as did many of his customers. He influenced many of them to make use of the Program’s help in seeking needed land treatment done on the Kent Creek Watershed Project.