Atascosa County Soil and Water Conservation District #307 held its 52nd annual awards program on Thursday, June 13, at Community Center in Jourdanton
Master of Ceremonies for the event was Michael Korus. Pledge of Allegiance was given by Jesse Pawelek. Pat West gave the invocation. Dinner was catered by Rose Pesqueda and program introductions were made by Michael Korus.
Clif Royal Conservation Farmer Award
SWCD 2019 Farmer of the Year for Atascosa County is Clif Royal. The Soil and Water Conservation District chose Clif because of his many management practices that help conserve the county’s excellent water, and the beautifully vast land that has been gifted to the Atascosa County area.
Clif is a fifth-generation farmer, graduate of Texas A&M, husband to Melissa who he met at Texas A&M, and father to his three boys Cade, Mason, and Nate. Clif made his way to Texas Farm Credit where he was a loan officer for the local Pleasanton branch for thirteen years. He later moved to the local Pleasanton Prosperity Bank where he managed that until Texas Farm Credit called upon him again. Clif managed Texas Farm Credit for two years before an opportunity arose that allowed him to farm his family land alongside his father who continues to provide Clif with guidance.
Clif and one farm hand manage 800 acres of cropland and ranch land. Clif has a variety of crops such as wheat, cotton, peanuts, corn, and hay grazer. Mr. Royal farms ten months of the year leaving his fields fallow for approximately two months. Clif and his help recently harvested wheat, have cotton planted and will soon be planting peanuts where his wheat was. Clif also runs seventy head of crossbred market cattle on fields that were once used as cropland. Clif is currently looking into payment rate assistance for brush management through the National Resources Conservation District, or the NRCS, to help improve his grazing pastures.
The Royal family has always been accepting of the new and ever-changing conservation practices. In cotton fields there are terraces to reduce erosion and trap sediment and to retain runoff for moisture concentration. Clif also plants hay grazer in the fields with sandier soils to help prevent wind and soil erosion. The hay grazer is planted between the cotton rows and can grow alongside the cotton. The hay grazer acts as a shield for the young cotton plants to protect them from the fine but dangerous sand. The hay grazer helps better hold the sand in place to help prevent the sand from acting as blow sand when carried away by high winds. The hay grazer also prevents the young cotton plants from being laid over during the unusually large amounts of rainfall in short spurts that Atascosa County experiences. When the cotton plants are mature enough to withstand the elements on its own, Clif uses genetically modified cotton seeds that allow him to grow a cleaner and stronger cotton that is round up ready. With the cotton being roundup ready Clif can use less pesticides and is able to spray the hay grazer killing it to allow the cotton to prosper once it is at a self-sustainable size.
One of Clif’s best investments is his cotton picker. The John Deere 9996 is an easy to operate machine with many features that allows for less diesel use and more efficient picking providing cleaner and larger quantities of cotton. Clif likes to give back to his community and one of the ways he does that is by helping surrounding farmers harvest their cotton. Clif believes helping each other with conservation allows everyone to succeed and provide quality product.
The Royals recently harvested wheat. In Clif’s wheat field he has an 800 gallon per minute irrigation system that uses 10psi per second spray nozzles allowing for maximum coverage with maximum efficiency. Clif worked with the NRCS to replace his outdated system. His goal is to conserve as much water as possible. NRCS helped replace an irrigation sprinkler that was 1,075 feet which promotes efficient and uniform application of water on his lands.
Additionally, the conservation of water that Clif incorporated is a Variable Frequency Drive pump to his irrigation systems. A VFD is used for adjusting a flow of pressure to the actual demand. It controls the frequency of the electrical power supplied to the pump so that significant power savings can be achieved. This allows the irrigation equipment to last longer and reduces energy use by eliminating the need of a diesel engine.
Another piece of equipment Clif is proud to have is his Orthman 1tRIPr row unit. This will be Clif’s second year strip tilling and he said he has already seen a difference in his fields. Clif will strip till his wheat field leaving approximately sixty percent of his wheat stubble and will plant his peanuts in the rows made with his Orthman. Clif has noticed that he is already cutting costs by using less fuel by tilling less. Clif observed that strip tilling helps the water saturate into the soil better because the stubble promotes higher rates of infiltration. Due to the changing topography in his wheat field there is also less soil erosion as aggregate stability hold together the soil better while also providing the soil with higher levels of organic matter. Clif has been extremely satisfied with the results of strip tilling and is excited to see it used more often in the Atascosa County area.
Clif has done a great deal of research on strip tilling and was impressed by the benefits that it brings to croplands. While researching Clif found that the Orthman provided the most out of a strip tiller and would provide him with the results he wanted. The twenty-twoinch depth band coulter easily slices through his wheat stubble reducing interference with the shank while it simultaneously maintaining seedbed depth. The sixteeninch row cleaners remove residue from the planting strip. The 1tRIPr creates an ideal environment throughout the growth cycle by shortening compaction in the root zone, eliminating subsoil voids and cavities and creating twice as many beneficial pores for improved below ground development. With all the benefits of a single strip tiller Clif couldn’t understand why he shouldn’t use strip tilling as part of his conservation practices. With his research he also found the major changes in soil health take time to observe, but Clif is willing to wait because he has faith in the method and has seen some improvements already by reducing inputs and helping preserve his land and water. Clif found out about pay rate assistance through the NRCS that allows him to further his use of conservation practices.
Thank you Clif for continuously working on improving your operation through the use of better management practices. Clif is an important part of conserving our natural resources. He is continuously researching new conservation methods and working to ensure that he is leaving the land better than he found it. Clif stands out as an innovator in his field and it is people like him that promote progress and ingenuity. Thank you again and congratulations Clif on being the 2019 Farmer of the Year!
Rancho 1333 Ltd. Bob and Billy Wilson Conservation Rancher Award
The 2019 Rancher of the Year award goes to Rancho 1333 Ltd. which is owned and managed by Bob and Billy Wilson. Bob and Billy are both active members of their churches, and Bob and his wife play in their church orchestra. Bob is self-employed, and Billy is an IT Manager in San Antonio. Both Bob and Billy commit their off time to the ranch and they also actively participate in the South West Cattlemen’s Association and the Texas Deer Association.
Rancho 1333 Ltd. is managed by the family and has been passed down through the generations. Bob and Billy saw an opportunity to make the ranch a selfsustaining entity. They saw the potential of the almost 1,600-acre ranch and called upon the NRCS to help make their vision come to life.
The vision started with a 94-acre field that was cleared, soil sampled, fertilized, and sprigged with Tifton 85. Bob and Billy currently bale hay from the 94 acres to help feed their, on average 80 head of crossbred cattle during the droughts of the year.
Seeing how working with NRCS improved Rancho 1333 Ltd. and making the cost of ranching more feasible, Bob and Billy called upon NRCS again for help. This time NRCS assisted with a plan to ensure there was enough grass available to their cattle by cross fencing part of the ranch and adding water to the newly fenced area. By adding cross fencing, Bob and Billy were able to implement a rotational grazing system which improves quality and quantity of forage for their livestock.
NRCS assisted with 3,390 feet of cross fencing to implement rotational grazing for their cattle.
With the new area there was also a need for a water source in which 2,943 feet of pipeline and a 1,000-gallon water trough were put into their plan, which also helps with improving animal distribution and create additional grazing areas.
In addition to these improvements Bob and Billy also saw a need to create additional grazing areas. They’re also working with NRCS to clear a 30-acre field that will be planted with native grasses to be used in their rotational grazing plan. The native grasses not only provide forage for livestock, they also provide forage, browse and cover for wildlife, which Bob and Billy also appreciate.
Bob and Billy enjoy spending time making improvements to their ranching operation and working with the NRCS. They believe that working with NRCS along with their conservation efforts will help their vision of a self-sustaining ranch will allow it to continue to prosper and be passed down through future generations. Rancho 1333 looks forward to seeing the improvements these conservation practice applications bring to their operation.
Congratulations to Bob and Billy Wilson of Rancho 1333 Ltd. for doing an outstanding job in conservation and leaving behind an improved piece of Atascosa County for generations to come.