Fallon Farmers Are Optimistic About Watering Season - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Fallon Farmers Are Optimistic About Watering Season

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It's been a rough stretch for Nevada's agriculture industry. Four years of drought left some farmers with little to no irrigation water. That is expected to change, this year. The wet winter has Fallon farmers getting their fields ready to plant, with irrigation beginning this Wednesday.

"We're super excited," Colby Frey, Owner of Frey Ranch said. "Right now, we've got tractors going all over the place, we have manure spreaders going. We're fertilizing. We're getting ready right now."

Towns along the Humboldt River also struggled, including Lovelock, where farmers didn't have any irrigation water. Fallon had their lowest water allocation on record, at 21%. The water season ended in the middle of summer, and many were only able to water their crops, twice. 

"Farmers are thrifty, so they got by and now this year, we're going to be busy," Frey said.

A regular water year lasts from March until November. The water is expected to last until September, this year, and the 70% allocation could increase depending on snow melt.

"At 70%, it's borderline with some farmers being able to establish some corn," Kelly Herwick, Truckee-Carson Irrigation District Water Master said. "Other than that, it would have a good carry-over for their crop, going into next year."

Last year was so dry, Frey did not even plant crops. He relied on annual alfalfa growth until he planted rye in the fall. Now, he is planning on planting crops like corn and oats.

"We're really excited about having a lot of water and being able to farm like we're used to," Frey said.

The effects of the drought still linger. Soil is so dry that a larger amount of water is expected to soak into the ground before farmers are able to utilize it. 

"A lot of seepage factors, recharging the ground, that much more dry conditions, it just soaks up the water," Herwick said.

The TCID and farmers are preparing the canals and ditches for the first water delivery of the year. They burn off excess vegetation and remove debris to allow the water to flow effectively.

"Right now, our main concern would be burning and tree limbs, but we've got equipment running in case we have anything that can plug up the canals, but if we can stay on top of the burning, we shouldn't have any of those types of issues," Herwick said.

Frey says he hopes the wet winter continues, adding even more water to the Truckee and Carson Rivers, helping to recharge Fallon's main source of irrigation, Lake Lahontan. He says it would be nice if the water allocation reaches around 85%, allowing him to irrigate at the most optimal times. Not only does that help the farmers, but the economic impact is felt throughout the entire community.

"I just bought 22 tractor tires, so the tire stores prosper," Frey said. "We just bought a bunch of fertilizer. Now, the fertilizer companies and everybody else. I was just able to hire three more guys, so it's really huge for the economy to have water."

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