NORTH PLATTE, Neb. -- With its recent purchase of 1,280 acres of farmland in western Nebraska, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln will enhance its efforts to help farmers and ranchers adjust to limited water supplies.

The Keith County property consists of three parcels -- one 640-acre parcel southwest of Brule and two 320-acre parcels northwest of Brule, said Don Adams, director of UNL's West Central Research and Extension Center at North Platte. The property consists of 800 acres of irrigated land with five pivots, 320 acres of dryland, and 160 acres of rangeland.

"Water research, education, and knowledge are absolutely critical to Nebraska's competitive advantage in crop and livestock production," said Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources Harlan Vice Chancellor and NU Vice President John Owens. "The university will focus this newly-acquired research and development capacity on practical applications that directly benefit our state and its citizens."

The university purchased the land because its soils are similar to soils covering a large area of southwest and south central Nebraska and its proximity to the Upper and Middle Republican Natural Resource Districts where farmers already face limits on water use, Adams said.

Precipitation also is lower there than farther east in the state.

"When conducting irrigation research applicable to southwest Nebraska, precipitation representative of the area is critical," Adams said.

This purchase also means the first pivots owned by UNL in southwestern Nebraska, he said.

"This is a real commitment from the university to conduct research that will work with limited water supplies, whether it be irrigation, pasture or crops," Adams said. "This also will be a long-term commitment to the state, and it will allow us to take small plot work typically done at the West Central Research and Extension Center and other locations in the state to the farm-sized scale."

In addition to continuing university research on limited-water and irrigation practices, the land also will offer a place to provide water-saving irrigation and cropping demonstrations for farmers, crop consultants and policy makers and for university field days.

"The site really met our specifications and really will help us meet the things we want to do," he said.

Adams anticipates a close association between the West Central and Panhandle Research and Extension faculty, the Departments of Agronomy, Animal Science and Biological Systems Engineering and the School of Natural Resources in designing and carrying out research on the property.
Graduate students will be able to conduct research on the land as part of their degree programs and the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture in Curtis will be able to use it as a teaching lab.

"This exciting addition to UNL's capability to conduct water management research and education could not have come at a better time or place," said Gary Cunningham, dean of UNL's Agricultural Research Division. "The work done at these Keith County properties will help Nebraska's farmers continue the wise use of the water that is essential for our state's economic future."

The property was purchased with funds from the sale of two other pieces of university land and from highway funds the university received when Highway 83 was rerouted. No tax dollars were used.

Final closing on the purchase from Ronald Grapes was Jan. 4, 2007.

"We are very happy that Ron Grapes was so supportive of the need to conduct this research and sold the land to support the university and eventually the farmers and ranchers of Nebraska," Adams said.

SOURCE: University of Nebraska news release.