The Megram Fire of 1999 was a turning point for Lake, and the Forest Service as well. It was one of California’s largest wildland fires ever and the agency grappled with how to restore salmon in the burned over watershed. Lake knew that local tribal elders considered “fire as medicine,” and an important part of the ecosystem. The link between fire and fish is through water, they told him, and “water is sacred to all life.” Fires could reduce the number of trees in overly dense forests and improve spring flow needed by rivers to support healthy fisheries.
|PUMPKINS AND POLLINATORS|
|A Unique Relationship|
|Whether you wake to find mist hanging in damp hollows, snow draping the last of your tomato vines, or sunshine glinting off a warm sea, there is one thing that unites us all this month: pumpkins. With Halloween quickly followed by Thanksgiving, pumpkins seem to define this season. We make family trips in a quest for the perfect jack-o'-lantern, dress up in pumpkin costumes to go trick or treating, decorate our homes with them, and slice them up to make pies, bread, and soup.|
Pumpkins are native to Central America and the desert Southwest. The pumpkin we typically carve or cook is a species called Cucurbita pepo, although there are four species of Cucurbita that include cultivars called pumpkins. With corn and beans, pumpkins and other squash form the "three sisters," a staple part of Native American agriculture. Because of this, pumpkins spread to new areas of North America, including New England, where Native tribes introduced the early Pilgrims to pumpkins. This was fortunate for the settlers, as pumpkins helped them fend off starvation during their first winters.
Infiltration Improved by use of Cover Crops
Infiltration is the process of water entering the soil. Infiltration rate is a measure of how fast water enters the soil. Water entering too slowly may lead to ponding on level fields or to erosion from surface runoff on sloping fields. Reducing erosion and runoff also reduce surface runoff of fertilizers and chemicals such as herbicides. Fertilizers and herbicides are agronomic inputs to assist farmers in producing productive and profitable yields. The objective of applying nutrients and herbicides and other chemicals are to benefit the plant. If the inputs runoff, it is a loss to the farmer and the environment.Plants need water and sunshine to produce crop yield. Infiltration is dependent on soil type, soil organic matter and aggregate stability or soil structure. As farmers utilize conservation practices that increase soil organic matter, soil health indicators such as soil structure, aggregate stability, and infiltration will also improve.
Rainfall simulators have become quite common in Tennessee. NRCS uses them to demonstrate how cover crops, no-till, and good grazing practices improve infiltration and reduces erosion. Below is an example of rainfall simulator at Milan No-till Experiment Station on Soil Health Plots.The five trays used were from five treatments left to right, no-till only, NT wheat only, NT cereal rye and crimson clover, NT five-way mix consisting of cereal rye, wheat, crimson clover, daikon radish, and purple top turnip, and NT cereal rye and vetch. Rainfall simulations were run multiple times totaling 3" of water. All trays had good soil structure due to alongterm no-till. As you can see by the back jugs showing infiltration, the 5-way mix infiltrated the best.
Bats: Farmers’ Secret Pest-Control Weapon
Published on July 26, 2017 Written by Michelle Donahue
Visitors who watch the nightly exodus of Mexican free-tailed bats from Bracken Cave come for the moment when millions of bats stream from the cave’s mouth. While they do know the bats are off foraging for insect prey, they usually exclaim when they learn just how many bugs the bats can eat in a night.
“Something that always gets a lot of ‘wows’ from our visitors is when we tell them just how many tons of insects the bats are eating—mostly agricultural pests,” said Fran Hutchins, BCI’s director of the Bracken Cave Preserve. And as they munch their way through 140 to 147 tons of insects—nearly 300,000 pounds of bugs each and every night during the growing season—bats provide a huge, yet mostly hidden, service to the United States’ agricultural communities.
In this region of Texas, bats’ nightly foraging occurs over huge tracts of land planted in corn, cotton and sorghum. Their prey: primarily moths, especially the adults of corn earworm and cotton bollworm moths. With each female moth capable of laying up to 1,000 eggs, every moth consumed by a bat represents a major reduction in the millions of dollars of potential damage that could occur.
John Worth Byrd, a fourth-generation pecan grower in San Saba, Texas, is one farmer who says he does everything he can to encourage bats to forage among his trees at night, including erecting his own homemade bat houses around his orchard. Byrd also builds houses for others who are interested in doing the same.
Food Web & Soil Health
By Elaine R. Ingham
HOW DO FOOD WEBS DIFFER?
Each field, forest, or pasture has a unique soil food web with a particular proportion of bacteria, fungi, and other groups, and a particular level of complexity within each group of organisms. These differences are the result of soil, vegetation, and climate factors, as well as land management practices.
Typical Food Web Structures
The "structure" of a food web is the composition and relative numbers of organisms in each group within the soil system. Each type of ecosystem has a characteristic food web structure. Some features of food web structures include:
Between Two Worlds:
Frank Lake heals the land using modern science
and traditional ecological knowledge
Frank Lake, research ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Station, jots down somefield notes after visiting a forest study plot in northern California. (Photo Credit: Kenny Sauve, Western Klamath Restoration Partnership).
Frank Lake grew up learning traditional practices from the Karuk and Yurok Tribes. He developed an interest in science which led to his career choice as a research ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station. As a young man, he didn’t realize how unusual the experience was of spending time in two parallel worlds.