Native Coloradan Angie Moore works mostly behind the scenes but still has an integral role in a major research project at Colorado State University that is generating significant buzz across the High Plains.

Native Coloradan Angie Moore works mostly behind the scenes but still has an integral role in a major research project at Colorado State University that is generating significant buzz across the High Plains.

Funded by a conservation innovation grant from the Natural Resource Conservation Service, her research team, headed by crop and soil scientist Meagan Schipanski, is studying how farmers can diversify and intensify dryland farming practices in ways that improve soil and water resources under semi-arid conditions.

Now a CSU research technician, Moore manages the agro-ecology lab on the Fort Collins campus and helps to coordinate multiple farmer-cooperators who are part of the project.

It’s an ideal fit for Moore, a Greeley native who grew up with strong ties to agriculture. Her grandfather farmed for the iconic Monfort family.

She went on to obtain her graduate degree from CSU under the direction of plant geneticist Pat Byrne.

Now she is part of the team working on CSU’s ambitious dryland farming research, which she considers groundbreaking in more ways than one.

“We are coming at this from a systems perspective, which I think is refreshing,” she said.

Researchers are looking beyond crop yields or pounds of gain to evaluate the full spectrum of direct and indirect impacts from improved soil health practices, which range from carbon sequestration to water use efficiency to weed suppression and more.

“You can’t judge success or failure on just one thing,” she said. “There are a lot of different aspects to this.”

The project is also comprehensive from a geographic standpoint, reaching beyond the state’s borders to include farmer-cooperators in western Kansas and Nebraska and input from researchers and specialists in those states.

Another thing that Moore said makes the project unique is that it was initiated by farmers, who approached the university with a problem: While there was lots of information available about evolving no-till and cover cropping practices, little of it pertained to limited rainfall situations.

The premise of the project — one that has already caught on with many farmers — is that increasing biological diversity and keeping the soil surface intact and covered with vegetation improves farmland’s resiliency and productivity. Such implications could dovetail with another multi-year grant the research team recently landed as part of a regional consortium: examining how to extend the life of the Ogallala Aquifer critical to life on the High Plains.

Moore is personally gung-ho on the soil health principles at the center of her work, saying she practices similar methodology in her garden at home. “Conceptually, it works the same regardless of scale,” she said.

She’s not surprised that many conventional farmers are eager to learn more about it, even if it means retooling their business approach.

“Once they try it — and if it’s successful for them — it opens them up to exploring more opportunities to go further with it,” she said. “For all of us who are involved with this, improving the soil is the primary goal.”

For more information about the project and to see interviews with some of the cooperators and scientists involved, go to DrylandAg.org.