Washoe Storey Conservation District
Spencer Scott and his family have been farming indoors and out in Wadsworth, Nevada, for six years. Their greenhouse is in production 365 days a year and uses an advanced hydroponic system that cycles 4.5 ounces of water per square foot per day to grow tomatoes. Outdoors, the Scotts have incorporated organic matter into the soils on an annual basis year to build new organic matter, tilth CEC capacity, and moisture retention capacity. This practice has made for “a rich microbial community in the soil with an abundant amount of actively decomposing organic matter always present in the root zone,” Spencer told NACD. “I’ve followed this practice for many years – it works.”
Spencer says he’s realized several benefits as a result of adding organic matter to the soil in the form of green manure and/or cover crops. Economically, he says, these practices have helped to exhaust weed seed banks – saving him the trouble of buying and applying pesticides. “Adding applications of composted animal or plant composts to the soil has paid off season after season by deepening the top soils,” too, he added.
“Amending the soil systematically and regularly on a structured program has increased the crop consistency and plant health and vigor markedly,” Spencer said. “Continually monitoring available nutrients in the soil and adding, reducing, or eliminating inputs as needed, has not only saved money, but reduced nitrogen runoff into the ground water supply and adjacent tributaries.”
To improve the efficiency of his farm’s water use, Spencer has concentrated on building water retention capacity in his soils and using the most efficient irrigation systems that operate at the most appropriate times.