MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - With a rising interest in establishing agricultural enterprises
on mined lands, West Virginia University and the West Virginia Coal Association
are teaming up to share some profitable information with West Virginia landowners.
The two organizations will host a workshop, “Income Opportunities on Reclaimed Mine Lands in West Virginia,” at the Charleston Civic Center on Monday, Jan. 29, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
The purpose of the workshop is to provide an overview of income opportunities available to those who own, or have to access to, reclaimed surface mined lands with favorable surface characteristics in West Virginia.
“Coal mining has been ongoing in a large scale in West Virginia since the 1950s,” said Jeff Skousen, professor of soil science in the WVU Davis College Division of Plant and Soil Sciences and WVU Extension land reclamation specialist. “Many acres of land are reclaimed and are suitable for producing some type of agricultural product that can help to feed the people of the state and also produce income for land owners.”
Of the approximately 900,000 acres of mined land in West Virginia, the majority of it has been reclaimed to herbaceous species for grassland and hay land.
“The utilization of post-mining land has been a very active and ongoing goal of the industry,” said Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association. “Using all the activities of our industry as we mine coal to diversify the economy in the more rural areas of West Virginia has been an objective for about 35 to 40 years.”
And, as the workshop will reveal, additional opportunities for diversification exist. The use of reclaimed land for agriculture and crop growth has only been practiced on a few sites and on relatively small acreages due to much of the reclaimed land having steep slopes and unsatisfactory soil conditions. However, it is estimated that as much as 25 percent of this reclaimed land has much more potential.
According to Skousen, agricultural crops such as livestock production, vegetables, grains and specialty crops are among the income-producing possibilities. Specialty crops include lavender, hemp, apples and other tree fruits, Christmas tree plantations and horticultural crop production in greenhouses.
With so many potential income opportunities, both Skousen and Raney hope the workshop will help fill in the blanks for West Virginia landowners who may have questions.
“Many West Virginia citizens are looking for advice and help on what types of crops and products can be produced,” Skousen said. “We are trying to fill some of the knowledge gaps by having this workshop with speakers who can tell us about their experiences.”
“This should give landowners a better understanding about the continuing use of their property and, hopefully, provide a commercial and economic opportunity for their land,” Raney added.
Throughout the afternoon, ten speakers will present on various topics ranging from bioenergy crops to the growth and uses of hemp to high tunnels for horticulture crops and the Bechtel Summit National Boy Scout Camp. Raney will provide the opening and closing remarks.
The workshop is being held in conjunction with the West Virginia Coal Association’s 45th annual West Virginia Mining Symposium, which begins the following day on January 30 at the Charleston Civic Center.