February 15, 1954
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SALVAGES SALTY SOIL
ßy C. KEITH MILLER
W' or land, Wyoming
L AND that was too salty five years ago to produce a small
grain crop is now highly productive, according to Willis
McCollom, operator of the Carroll Kirk farm near Frannie,
It is a 28-acre field that we leached as an experiment,
McCollom said, "and gave us the idea that it pays to have
salty land examined carefully before it is given up as no
good. Since then, we have treated another field, have 60
acres more about ready for seeding, and have another 50
acres cleared and ready to give the leaching treatment.
This is a 417-acre farm that Kirk bought some years ago.
The upper half is free of salts, McCollom said, and is highly
productive. The rest lies on a lower level, was very salty
and, except for the 28-acre field, was covered with a growth
of brush and salt-tolerant grass.
Kirk and McCollom began cooperation with the Sho
shone Soil Conservation District and got the aid of the Soil
Conservation Service technicians to develop a farm conser
vation plan. The irrigation system on-'the land under pro
duction was designed to give better control over irrigation
water for the conservation of both soil and water.
Then came the question of what to do with the 28-acre
field that had been cleared not long before," McCollom
said. "We had tried to raise a crop there but got nothing.
An examination showed that seepage from the higher
land both on his farm and from other land was responsible
for the condition of the lower part of the farm. An inter
ceptor drain was laid out along the upper side of the salted
land and Kirk had it built.
Suitable Internal Drainage
It was found, McCollom said, that although the surface
soil was heavy, the land had satisfactory internal drainage*
if the seepage water from above were cut off. It seemed
possible that if the salts could be leached from the soil, and
then irrigation handled carefully, this land could be made
We decided to try it, and it worked," McCollom said.
"The land was leveled first and then terraces were laid
out on the exact contour. The field was also diked along
the sides. This formed a series of good-sized basins which
we filled with water.
After the water disappeared, he continued, the basins
were filled again. This was done five times during the
summer, after which the salts appeared to have been
leached out. The field was then leveled again and the
irrigation ditch laid out and built.
Heavy Growth of Barley
Barley seeded on that field in 1950 had a very heavy
growth," McCollom said. "The grain was knocked down by
a heavy snow, however, but even so we harvested 28
bushels an acre by using a combine with a pick-up attach
In 1951, corn on that field produced 12% tons of silage
per acre. Nitrogen fertilizer was used, of course. And in
1952, the field was manured and oats were seeded as a
companion crop for alfalfa. The oats produced 78 bushels
an acre and a good stand of alfalfa was established.
Except for the 28-acre field, Kirk and McCollom first
have had to clear land that is being treated. Then it had to
be leveled so that there could be uniform application of
water during the leaching process, and the terraces and
Waves Cause Trouble
We've had our troubles and (Please turn to page 13)
S MONTANA AND NORTHERN
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This picture shows a field on the Carrol Kirk farm near Frannie, Wyo., as it
appeared before it was leveled and laid out with contour dikes and basins. It
is so salty that practically nothing will grow on it. (SCS photos)
This picture shows a first-year seeding of alfalfa on a field that was leached th*
year before by the basin method.
This picture shows some flooded basins in aclion leaching out excessive salts and
alkali. The basins are made by constructing contour dikes across the fields. It
requires a year and about five teachings to reclaim the land.
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