By NDSU Extension
Welcome to the Soil Sense Podcast, where we believe that building healthier soils is not just a prescription, but rather a pursuit. This journey requires collaboration, curiosity, and communication among farmers, agricultural researchers, agronomists, consultants, and extension. You’re going to hear their stories and discover how and why they’re working together to make sense out of what’s happening in the soil.
A Legacy of Conservation with Bob Radcliffe
We often talk on this show about soil health being a journey. Well today’s guest has been on that journey as a farmer for over 75 years. Bob Radcliffe grew up on a farm near Lennard, North Dakota in the 20s and 30s, then served in the United State Marine Corps during World War 2 and returned full time to the farm in the 1940s. Since that time he has been farming and raising livestock for over 75 years. Now at age 99, his grandson, Chris Walberg, has taken over the farm. It was really a treat to get to sit down with both Bob and Chris for this episode. “We had a love for the land. It's been in the family for five generations. We have 1891 tax returns for this land…..and so there's not many farms that have stayed in one family that long... if you love what you're doing, it's never work. And that's really been the story.” - Bob Radcliffe In his lifetime, not only has Bob witnessed the mechanization of agriculture, but he was very early in the adoption of soil conservation practices. We talk about his history on the farm, the challenges of taking care of the land, innovations and changes that have happened over the past seven decades, and what wisdom he’d like to share with other farmers interested in soil health. “(He has given) me a lot of advice and his wisdom over the years of what he's experienced in his lifetime. It's really been a benefit to me, particularly in soil…. We're doing a lot of different things trying to improve our soil health and make the land better for the next generation and hopefully make a profit at the same time.” - Chris Walberg This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Bob Radcliffe, a North Dakota farmer with a lifetime of stories to share Explore the many advances and adaptations Bob has incorporated into his operation Discover words of wisdom that only decades of experience can offer Connect with Soil Sense Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
October 18, 2021
Soybean Cyst Nematode with Dr. Sam Markell
In the fourteen years that Dr. Sam Markell has been in his current position as extension plant pathologist at North Dakota State University, he has not only seen an expansion in soybean acreage, but also in soybean diseases and nematodes. Well, one nematode in particular. You’re going to hear Sam mention several diseases throughout the course of today’s conversation. You’re also going to get a fascinating conversation about why knowing your soils can help you manage soil pathogens, and a science-fiction like idea of fighting these diseases in the future. For the most part we’re going to focus on two of the main problems: soybean cyst nematode and sudden death syndrome. Dr. Markell has observed the adaptation of the nematode causing soybean cyst disease to previous varieties that were once resistant. The same genetic resistance was used in common soybean varieties and after years of efficacy it is now showing susceptibility in specific locations. However, that susceptibility is likely to spread. “Particularly with pathogens, they're microscopic for the most part so you can assume they're light. If you can see soil particles blown around, you need to assume that you're blowing pathogens around.” - Dr. Sam Markell Sudden death syndrome is caused by a fungus and can also be spread through soil transfer. While the fungus will not leave the roots they infect they will produce a toxin that affects the entire plant. Dr. Markell shares that seed and variety selection is one of the most crucial management strategies for disease management. He also highlights the efficacy of extending crop rotations to reduce the pathogen load in the soil. “We know for sure that we will always have invasive pathogens. We also know that the pathogens we do have, they are going to adapt. They are going to change. They're going to evolve. They'll mutate, they'll increase in different ways…. We can handle them really poorly or we can handle them really well.” - Dr. Sam Markell This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Dr. Sam Markell an extension plant pathologist at North Dakota State University, Explore the expansion of the soybean crop in North Dakota and the diseases they are susceptible to Discover different management techniques to best control soybean cyst nematodes and sudden death syndrome Connect with Soil Sense Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
June 2, 2021
Agronomic Challenges and Soil Health Opportunities with Kyle Okke
On the show today is Kyle Okke, regional agronomist at Winfield United. Most listeners are familiar with Winfield United, the large ag retail network that is part of Land O Lakes, a member-owned cooperative. Kyle is responsible for being a technical resource on anything related to crop protection, which includes employee training, customer education, troubleshooting, and technical advice. His job is impressive both in it’s scope of responsibilities, but also in its geography. Kyle covers from the Red River Valley all across North Dakota and Montana. With his experience of working very different areas of the state agronomically, he’s seen where farmers are generally the same, and where things are different.Today we navigate a variety of topics from tillage to carbon to pH to mistakes he’s seen some farmers make in a dry year like this one. “I definitely think it doesn't matter who they are as a farmer. I think they all have the same goal in mind and it's passing on what they have to the next generation….You can't just mine your soil, deplete it of all its nutrients, and deplete it of all its resources. ” - Kyle Okke He is seeing a trend with producers increasingly focusing on balanced fertility programs, better moisture retention, and making adjustments to retain as much topsoil as possible. Whether the producer wants to call it “soil health” or not the objective is to prolong the viability of ground they have available to farm. He has observed a lot of success and increasing popularity with strip tilling practices as a compromise between better agronomics and soil health. He cautions producers from focusing on any one factor as an individual. For example, increasing carbon levels without adjusting for the carbon to nitrogen ratio. The concern here is that increased crop residue that leads to increased carbon in the soil will also temporarily tie up nitrogen in the soil. So rather than focusing on the carbon by itself, looking at the carbon as part of a system seems to be a better use and adjustment for soil health. He offers his opinion on carbon credits in light of this opinion. “The big thing is that this is incentivizing good soil health practices. That's what I see behind it is that it's an incentivization to do the right thing, you know, just to start building soil health.” - Kyle Okke As a final note, Kyle shares that he sees technology as a significant investment that will have a good return in the long term for producers. “I think technology is really going to pay for those guys that are adopting it and utilizing this data that they're collecting.” This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Kyle Okke, regional agronomist at Winfield United Learn about his experience and observations of trends working across the states of North Dakota and Montana Explore his views on different agronomic practices from a high-level systems perspective rather than looking at one nutrient or factor at a time Be sure to listen to The Agronomist Happy Hour Podcast that Kyle co-hosts. He recommends the episode called Complaints and Cocktails Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
May 24, 2021
Pheasants Forever and Soil Health
This podcast has always been about collaboration and building healthier soils while promoting productivity and profitability at the farm level. It's definitely a team effort. Today's episode shines a spotlight on the work being done by Pheasants Forever and why they too are passionate about building healthier soils. Their primary goal is to “conserve pheasants, quail, and other wildlife through habitat improvements, public access education and conservation advocacy.” As part of their mission to create better bird habitat, their strategies and programs for producers and landowners align really well with others involved in soil health management. Joining us are Austin Lang and Emily Spolyar, both are precision ag and conservation specialists with Pheasants Forever located in North Dakota. “We've seen through research and experience that habitats have been the most effective and cost-effective way to get to that mission.” - Austin Lang The first step in their process is identifying the goals of the producer and landowner. There are many options regarding limiting public access and various programs to best meet those goals, some of which are specific for certain areas like”watersheds or geographies.” Some programs generate revenue with rental payments while others may allow for grass seed or cover crop compensation. Emily shares that through analysis she can identify acres that are underproducing and may be a good option to support bird wildlife. A collaborative project like this may also provide financial benefit to the landowner and keep the producer from farming acres that are ROI negative. “I don't need the highly profitable acres to make good habitat. So let's put (habitat) in places that make sense. So (the landowner) is still able to enjoy hunting on those acres and then the producers are able to continue to farm the best acres and put the lower yielding acres into a conservation program.” - Emily Spolyar They have seen improvements of course in wildlife habitats but also compaction issues, salinity issues, overall soil health and of course financial gains. “Everything that we do is all farmer led. However they want to proceed is what we go with,” shares Emily. Austin was sure to highlight that they are in no way replacing producers’ agronomist relationships but rather aim to add value and offer another resource for producers to have access to. Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
May 11, 2021
Soilborne Diseases with Audrey Kalil, Ph.D.
As with any biological system, there can be good microbes, and there can also be harmful microbes. Crop and soil health is certainly no exception. In this episode we will discuss some of the soilborne pathogens that are impacting crops, with a special focus on pulse crops (peas, lentils, and chickpeas). Dr. Audrey Kalil, a plant pathologist at the North Dakota State University Williston Research Extension Center joins us. Audrey’s research focuses on common crops in the region, which is a pretty dry area, so crops like spring wheat, durum wheat, canola, and pulse crops. Most of her work is in looking at soilborne diseases. But Audrey didn’t always set out to study diseases. In fact, her PhD work focused on the beneficial nitrogen-fixing types of bacteria. It also explains how she found a particular interest in pulse crops. “I think there are a lot of natural intersections between the concepts of soil health and disease management.” - Dr. Audrey Kalil Dr. Kalil shares how pulse crops through cover crop usage and rotation strategies can help many operations. She goes on to share the necessity and advantage of providing a “robust microbial ecosystem” to help your soils not become burdened by any one pathogen or disease. Dr. Kalil highlights that some crops overlap with pathogens they may promote for example peas and lentils. The overlapping characteristics of these species can lead to an overgrowth of some soil pathogens that will become more difficult to manage overtime. She offers different management strategies and seed treatments to avoid these overgrowth situations. Dr. Kalil explains the disease triangle as a concept to better understand crop disease management. There are three main pillars to developing crop disease including the presence of the pathogen in your area, the variety of crop and its level of susceptibility and the effects of weather. Managing and manipulating any one of these pillars can lead to a lower crop disease burden and his a helpful way to address these concerns. This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Dr. Audrey Kalil, a plant pathologist at the North Dakota State University Williston Research Extension Center Discover what advantages nitrogen fixation bacteria can offer different operations Learn how to encourage biodiversity in the soil microbial heath as a soilborne pathogen deterrent Explore they many different techniques available to manage crop disease Learn more about pulse crops by listening to the Growing Pulse Crops Podcast Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
May 3, 2021
Integrated Pest Management and Soil Health
An important part of building healthier soils is focusing on the biology living in those soils. This of course includes the microbes in the soil, but also the plants, animals, and insects that they interact with. In this episode specifically, we'll talk about how to bring an integrated approach to insect pest management and even some insects that are particularly beneficial to soil health. Joining us is Dr. Travis Prochaska, an entomologist and a crop protection specialist for NDSU extension located at the North central research extension center in Minot, North Dakota. His day-to-day focuses on answering insect related questions and plant disease questions for both farmers and homeowners. He shares with us the integrated pest management approach to managing insects which is becoming increasingly important as resistance is building to some of our chemical controls. “So (integrated pest management) is the toolbox that we have at our disposal that we can use to counteract the harmful effects of insects in the field.” - Dr. Travis Prochaska These tools include the most common involving chemical inputs but also incorporate cultural practices, genetic selection for resistance and biological controls. Planting times, variety selection and using beneficial insects all fall under this integrated approach. There are some insects that are able to not only combat harmful insects but can provide benefits to soil health. Dr. Prochaska highlights the importance of not only scouting for harmful insects but also beneficial insect species to know how best to manage your operation. Beneficial insects such as dung beetles when used within grazing operations can facilitate decomposition of manure into nutrients back into the soil. Using insecticides without taking into account chemical resistance, beneficial insects and the ramifications of the persistence of those chemicals in the environment could be doing producers a greater disservice than benefit. This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Dr. Travis Prochaska, an entomologist and a crop protection specialist for NDSU extension located at the North central research extension center in Minot, North Dakota Discover what is meant by an integrated pest management approach and the many factors that need to be taken into account Learn about the many tools in the tool box of integrated pest management and the pros and cons to each Email Dr. Prochaska to participate in the virtual workshop series coming up discussing insect control and management. Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
April 19, 2021
The Power of Perennials with Clair Keene, Ph.D.
We have a really fascinating episode for you today about incorporating perennials into crop rotations. In the past, we have discussed the many soil health benefits of keeping living roots in the soil year round, diversifying rotations, and minimizing soil disturbance. Perennials are great options for all of the above. Joining us is Dr. Clair Keene, extension specialist in cropping systems at NDSU at the Williston Research Extension Center in northwest North Dakota. Clair shares how she is working with farmers to incorporate perennials for a variety of reasons including managing salts and reclaiming topsoil after pipeline construction. We also discuss the profitability of these crops relative to annual row crops with benefits in decreased inputs and management. “What some people maybe don't factor in as they think about maybe how much money they're not getting in bushels of grain off those acres, but there’s also how many dollars in inputs you're not spending. You're not paying for new seed each year and you're probably not going to be fertilizing it each year. Many stands and perennials once they get going, they don't even need weed control, so you're not spraying....So once those perennials are well-established, they're really taking care of themselves.” - Dr. Clair Keene Mowing and bailing can become the major annual expense with a good forage for livestock feed as a profitable outcome. With an initial investment in seeding you still can be more profitable overtime than annual cash crops as you “spread the initial costs out” over several years. She goes on to share further benefits including resolving and managing salinity issues in certain locations. These crops better “manage the water table” and keep the water engaged in the plant life cycle rather than evaporating and leaving salt behind. Kernza is an up and coming intermediate wheat grass that has been selected for grain characteristics. The hope is to get a harvest for three to four years and not to need tillage or fertilization resulting in a “potentially very big cost savings.” “I'm excited about it because of the potential flexibility it offers.…. Because kernza has been specifically developed for its soil health benefits, there's already a small, but strong and growing niche market that wants to buy the grain. There is a lot of interest in kernza grain.” - Dr. Clair Keene This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Dr. Clair Keene, extension specialist in cropping systems at NDSU at the Williston Research Extension Center in northwest North Dakota. Discover the many soil and financial benefits of using perennials to manage salinity and overall soil health Learn about the development and potential of Kernza as an additional perennial crop that can share these benefits Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
April 13, 2021
Manure and Compost for Soil Health
In an effort to build healthier soils, many row crop farmers are caught between wanting the benefits of livestock on their land but also not wanting to enter the livestock business. The decisions are further complicated by whether to pursue grazing livestock, manure or compost. There are many benefits of livestock to be found without the commitment to raising them or partnering with someone else. To help navigate these options we are joined by Mary Keena, a Livestock Environmental Management Specialist with NDSU Extension based out of the Carrington Research Extension Center. In this episode we explore the benefits of incorporating compost and manure into the soil, how to make it work on your operation, how to get started in composting, and some common pitfalls to avoid. “As far as our crop production and looking at our soils goes, we want that organic matter back in our soil. And how can we do that? We add manure. That's one tool in the box. With that then comes increased water-holding capacity and increased structure for our soil. And so we're, we're adding a lot of other benefits besides just the fertilizer.... We're adding a little bit of microbes to the soil as well through our manure or compost.” - Mary Keena Keena recommends contacting local livestock producers to see if you can collaborate to use their manure. She suggests starting with a small section of your operation to trial the benefits and management of manure use. She welcomes producers to come visit the research centers to see different types of manure and compost use on example plots that they have established. Keena explains the equipment and timing of managing compost and manure. She finds that equipment for turning the product is the largest expense but she offers producers a less expensive alternative. “If you're not sold on compost, try it with the equipment that you have on your farm. Do you have a loader? Do you have a skid-steer? Do you have something that you can turn it with? Do that first. And then if you're like, this is awesome, then go to a turner because it is an investment. But again, it's kind of another tool in the box and it's a trade off. How do you want to manage it? Do you want to manage it in the field or do you want to manage it before it gets to the field?.” - Mary Keena Composting allows management of the substrate into a more consistent product with more active microbes and less risk of adding a weed seed load to your field. Raw manure can produce the same benefits but will need to be managed once out on the field with practices including herbicides to manage an increased weed burden not eliminated with composting. It's up to the producer which method of management best fits their operation. There are many factors apart from yield producers can hope to see changes including soil structure, organic matter, microbial growth, affordability, decreased inputs and production value. Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
April 5, 2021
Researching the Tradeoffs of Wide Row Corn
The concept of wide-row corn can seem counterintuitive at first. Why would you make it harder to achieve optimal yields of your primary crop in order to get more production out of your cover crops? Well, collecting the data on these tradeoffs is exactly what today’s guests have been doing - and they have some very interesting results to share. In fact, you’re going to hear varying levels of success with this system, and I think leave this episode with a very realistic sense of what you may be getting yourself into if you try it. Once again, this audio was taken from the DIRT Workshop this past fall. Go check out the youtube links and other podcasts to take advantage of this amazing resource on soil health! Today you’ll hear from: Dr. Lee Briese, Agronomist and Crop Consultant with Centrol Ag Consulting Dr. Mike Ostlie, Research Agronomist at the NDSU Carrington Research and Extension Center Dr. Joel Ransom, Agronomist with NDSU Extension “I guess from my perspective, I still see a lot of potential in the system. If we work on the input management and try to economically make the systems a little more equal then maybe we don’t have to get up to the same yield and still make it pencil out just as well.” - Dr. Mike Ostlie Both Dr. Ransom and Dr. Briese saw a significant decrease in yield that would not be financially sustainable in their current form. Dr. Briese even remarked that producers should be “careful if you try this.” Where the real potential in this system lies is in the integration of livestock according to Dr. Ostlie and Dr. Briese. This allows for additional value in the system by adding another revenue source. Dr. Ostlie goes on to add another benefit this system may afford producers. “This is really turning out to be probably one of the most flexible options we have in North Dakota and that's because it allows us to go in there with one or maybe even two herbicide applications in our corn post emergence before we even plant the cover crop. …. It allows us to start with a clean slate in the corn.” - Dr. Mike Ostlie The system itself is still being defined and developed. All three of our panel agronomists acknowledge that while this is a complicated protocol to use, there is potential for its success for certain operations. At this time more research is needed and planned to fine-tune planting wide row corn. Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
March 29, 2021
Low pH Soils with Dr. Mark Liebig and Ryan Buetow
In many cropping systems, the soil is becoming more and more acidic over time. This is happening to some soils quicker than others. A soil with a pH of 5, as an example, is 100 times more acidic than a neutral pH of 7. As these soils become more acidic, they can start to have problems with nutrient availability, nutrient cycling, and ultimately have an impact on yields. And unfortunately, they’re likely to get worse. We talk about what’s causing this acidification, some important sampling considerations, ways to fix these problems, and ways to slow the acidification from happening in the first place. Once again, this audio was taken from the DIRT Workshop this past fall. Go check out the youtube links and other podcasts to take advantage of this amazing resource on soil health! Today you’ll hear from: Dr. Mark Liebig with the USDA ARS located in Mandan, North Dakota Ryan Buetow an Extension Cropping Systems Specialist at the NDSU Dickinson Research Extension Center. “A lot of the soils that we have in the southwest part of North Dakota, they don't have the buffering capacity and soil acidification can get real really quick.” - Dr. Mark Liebig He goes on to say that “we have a widespread global issue with respect to acidification” and that understanding the origin of these issues as well as mitigation efforts that can be made is critical. Sources of decreased pH include rainwater, the mineralization of organic matter, intensive land management with an abundance of applied nitrogen and the aggressive removal of residue on fields. All of these sources in combination make buffering the decreased pH more difficult for the soils to manage with the nitrogen application likely being the most significant. Ryan Buetow highlights the significance of sampling for pH at appropriate depths based on your risk factors. Acidic pH caused by nitrogen is most likely detected near the surface. A deeper sample may dilute the results giving a less representative sample. “We've been trying a lot of different things. The best fix is really a liming. That's really what we want people to do with this issue.” -Ryan Buetow Ryan suggests other “bandaid” type fixes like investigating different varieties of crops and adding strategic phosphorus to bind aluminum that becomes more readily available in a lower pH. Ultimately adjusting the overall pH with the use of lyme, although expensive, is the best way to cause widespread correction of the pH and avoid the potential metal toxicities and herbicide interactions associated with an acidic pH. Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
March 17, 2021
Intercropping and Relay Cropping
The idea of intercropping - or growing two crops at once, has theoretical appeal of creating synergies for pest and disease management, fertility, and overall productivity. But is this really possible in practice? In today’s episode we talk to three applied researchers about what the data shows when it comes to intercropping and relay cropping. We will explore a few different intercropping and relay cropping combinations, the benefits and tradeoffs, and what to consider before trying any of these systems. This audio was taken from the DIRT Workshop this past fall. Today you’ll hear from: Dr. Mike Ostlie a research agronomist at the NDSU Carrington Research and Extension Center. Dr. Marisol Berti a professor in the plant sciences at NDSU Dr. Russ Gesch a research plant physiologist with USDA ARS in Morris, MN “When we have more than one crop growing in the field, I think the first thing you have to realize is you're not looking to maximize the yield of either of what you're growing. You're looking for more total yield.” - Dr. Mike Ostlie It’s important to keep this in mind because producers will likely see some decrease in yield in both crops as opposed to planting them as a single crop. Overall you should appreciate an increase in the efficiency per acre by achieving an overall production increase between the two crops. Dr. Ostlie does suggest identifying a “dominant crop” in order to best target your management practices and meet your individual needs and goals. Dr. Berti introduces us to the concept of relay cropping. While intercropping involves planting and growing two crops concurrently with the same expected harvest timing, relay cropping involves overlapping life stages of two crops with separate harvests. Dr. Berti sees a lot of benefit in a corn/alfalfa system she is researching. Alfalfa is not profitable during its seeding year but will be the following year so overlapping with another crop allows for ongoing production while waiting for the alfalfa to mature. The biodiversity, nitrogen fixation and improved water infiltration of including the alfalfa will also benefit the overall soil health while producing a concurrent cash crop. “I don't think farmers should be afraid to try (camelina) out and use it as a cover crop even if they're not going to grow it out to maturity and harvest it because it does have some good cover crop benefits and ecosystem services that it provides.” - Dr. Russ Gesch Dr. Gesch shares that markets are emerging making the use of intercropping prospects like camelina more profitable for producers. In the meantime benefits such as biodiversity, supporting the insect ecosystem and suppressing weed growth can be of great benefit for producers. All of our experts advise producers to trial these methods on their operations in small amounts at first to limit potential risk while evaluating and adjusting for the most benefit. Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
March 9, 2021
Managing Salinity and Sodicity
Over 90% of producers in North Dakota are experiencing some sort of reduced productivity as a result of salinity. This problem is not unique to North Dakota - it’s happening in many of our most productive agricultural regions. The second problem that we’re going to discuss today, is a separate problem, but in many cases, even more difficult to manage, sodicity. Sodicity can also impede progress in solving salinity issues. Salinity and sodicity are different soil chemistries and require different management strategies. We discussed these topics on our panel at the DIRT Workshop. Today you’ll hear from: Naeem Kalwar, Extension Soil Health Specialist at North Dakota State University Dr. Cheryl Reese, Senior Lecturer in agronomy at South Dakota State University “The reason we need to care about soil salinity and for that matter sodacity too….is because we lose hundreds of thousands of dollars every year on these kind of spots.” - Naeem Kalwar With the amount of expense necessary to farm ground including gas prices, land prices, inputs and seed prices, having certain sections that represent a net loss can be detrimental to finances. There are corrections that can be made to improve those soils, improving their profitability and move present salts deeper to cause less harm to crops. Naeem suggests first soil sampling to identify what crops and practices will be most successful in those specific areas. “Across South Dakota and North Dakota, we have very similar soils and these areas pop up because we have old salty sediments that are from old formations. And if these formations are close to the surface and we have a high water table, then these salts will always come back up to the surface.” - Dr. Cheryl Reese Dr. Reese highlights the benefits of using perennial salt tolerant grasses to improve erosion and salt concerns while still producing a usable crop. She suggests contacting your local NRCS to get more guidance and assistance with that measure. Dr. Reese also echoes Naeem by emphasizing the importance of soil testing to identify the specific issue and its severity before discussing mitigation practices such as switching crops, adding tiles or adding amendments. This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Naeem Kalwar, Extension Soil Health Specialist at North Dakota State University and Dr. Cheryl Reese, Senior Lecturer in agronomy at South Dakota State University Learn about the harmful effects of salinity and sodicity and what practices can be used to better manage areas affected by these issues Explore the potential benefits and limitations of adding tiles and additives to correct salinity and sodicity concerns Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
March 1, 2021
Grazing Livestock for Soil Health
For many farmers on this journey to improve their soil health, incorporating livestock is something they hope to do in the future. This can and will introduce a whole new layer of complexity into the system. How many cattle are appropriate? What will they need in terms of fencing, water, etc.? What will the benefits be to the land? What should be considered in an economic arrangement with a rancher? These were some of the questions discussed on our grazing panel at the DIRT Workshop. Today you’ll hear from: Dr. Kevin Sedivec, Extension Rangeland Management Specialist at North Dakota State University Extension and Director of the Central Grasslands Research Extension Center Dr. Miranda Meehan, Extension Livestock Environmental Stewardship Specialist also at NDSU Jerry Doan, rancher from McKenzie, ND Also on this panel was Mary Keena, Extension Livestock Environmental Management Specialist at NDSU. But you won’t hear from Mary today, as we’re going to do a full episode with her on compost and manure later in this season. “Just the idea of the hoof action and the urine and the manure that creates this different micro-population that adds a new value and a new component that then benefits your soil microbic population, which then helps you break down and create more organic matter in time. So livestock to me is one of those tools that in my opinion has been a no brainer to add. It's a quick way to add economic return on that land base.” - Dr. Kevin Sedivec Dr. Sedivec goes on to highlight that long term management adjustments should be seen as a long term investment. “Don’t expect to see dollar savings the first year you do this.” Continuing soil health practices and incorporating livestock over multiple years will provide the best benefit for producers. Admittedly, it is a complicated process to isolate the value the livestock bring to the cropping system and the cropping system brings to the livestock. Dr. Miranda Meehan is involved in research to better define and answer that problem. Her studies focus on the “carrying capacity” of fields that incorporate the type of cattle to be added, the life-stage they are in, the length of time for grazing and the amount of cover crop residue the producer wants to maintain. She also offers how to choose the appropriate cover crop mixture that works well for your operation and helps “increase nutritional quality and maintain the nutritional plain” for the grazing livestock. “You know, people ask me all the time, can I build soil health without livestock? And I say, yeah, sure, you can, but you'll get there 10 times faster with livestock.” - Jerry Doan Doan’s operation has three main goals at the moment; trying to reduce winter feed costs, increasing the soil health of his crop lands and incorporating wildlife preservation into his operation. Doan shares all the many signs he has seen on his land that indicate increased soil health including worm populations and better granulated soil. Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
February 23, 2021
Farmer Experiences with Wide Row Corn
60” corn has been a hot topic in many soil health circles. This wider row spacing can allow for greater light penetration and improve the environment for interseeded cover crop growth. We hosted both a farmer panel and a researcher panel on 60” corn at the DIRT Workshop this past December. In this episode, farmers discuss their system, what yield differences they’ve seen, timing and harvesting considerations, grazing value, crop insurance, and more. To meet these producers and watch the panel discussions click the links below to find the NDSU soil health Youtube channel. Joe Breker, farmer from Rutland, North Dakota Chris Walberg, farmer/rancher from Leonard, North Dakota Tyler Zimmerman, farmer from Leaonard, North Dakota Also on this panel was Mike Schaefer, who actually planted a full vegetable garden between corn rows on a small plot in New Rockford, North Dakota. We don’t get into that full story today, but I encourage you to check out his video on Youtube. “It isn’t that the broad pass covers or interseeding covers didn’t work. It just wasn’t as consistent for the following year as I would like to see….I have never had a consistent cover as I have right now going into winter.” - Joe Breker Joe shares that in spreading out his rows, adding cover crops and applying more fertilizer he did not see a large yield reduction in the cash crop. His goal going forward is to improve weed control by adjusting his cover crop mixture without affecting the yield further. Chris Walberg's goals in widening his rows was to add species diversity and a grazing program to his operation. This further highlights the advice from last episode, that knowing your goals with cover crops and planting will affect the program that best fits your operation. While he did confirm a decreased yield, he has yet to see how having the extra forage and decreased inputs will affect his financial bottom line. Chris is “pretty happy with the biomass” produced and looks forward to it grazing well this winter. He has also seen the added benefit of weed suppression with the additional growth of his cover crops. Both Joe and Chris had very little issue with harvesting and remarked on the harvest ease. “If you can get a cash crop growing full season and still have a cover crop out there, I just think it's a win in all different aspects with the biology and stuff in the soil.” - Tyler Zimmerman Tyler has not seen a financial gain at the moment but he does see the long term benefits with better soil health and will continue to make adjustments to hopefully achieve that. All of our producers are encouraged by the immediate results and plan on making future adjustments to continue to finetune the practice to their individual operations. Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
February 15, 2021
Cover Crops Research and Strategy
We were able to capture some of the best information out there about soil health at the DIRT Workshop last December thanks to some fantastic speakers and some tremendous audience engagement.Today’s episode focuses on cover crops. You’ll hear from: Dr. Hans Kandel, a South Dakota State University Professor and Extension Agronomist Dr. Matt Ruark, a soil scientist from the University of Wisconsin at Madison Dr. Dave Franzen, a professor and extension soil health specialist also at North Dakota State University “There is not one cocktail or species that does best. It depends really on the wishes of the producer but there are many opportunities.” - Dr. Hans Kandel Dr. Kandel prefers to think about using cover crops as a “mimicking of nature.” Multi-species growth is a natural occurrence in the prairie region so growing multiple species simultaneously is naturally supported by the ecosystem. He explains that different cover crops are better suited for different outcomes. If you are looking for something to be sustained throughout the winter then a winter hardy crop like winter rye, winter wheat or camelina may be the best fit. For added nitrogen, peas may work best. Another consideration may be susceptibility to potential disease transfer. Mixes of species have the potential of achieving multiple goals but they also add the concern that you may be watering down some specific benefits by adding more plants that will compete for the same resources. Ultimately the main priority for the producer helps inform the best cover crop and the best timing and method for seeding. “What gets me the most excited about evaluating cover crops is trying to get the use of legumes in rotation because it does have that short term economic benefit of supplying some nitrogen.” - Dr. Matt Ruark Dr. Ruark focused his discussion on the benefits of biomass with legumes and how to best manage their growth. “That’s the trick with legumes….for me the legumes are strictly a biomass game….The more biomass you have the more nitrogen release you have.” Of course sometimes that biomass can be overwhelming. Dr. Ruark suggests that you can either use excess biomass as a forage source, you can terminate early to reduce the amount of biomass produced or you can adjust your nitrogen fertilizer application. He does highlight that we are still at the “mercy of the weather patterns, especially in the spring” for growth of cover crops after harvest so control is never absolute. “I think just being aware and knowing that you’ve got to manage the thing instead of just let it grow until you plant. You have to keep your eyes open and use some common sense when you have cover crops in the west.” - Dr. Dave Franzen Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
February 9, 2021
What Happens in the Soil When We Reduce Tillage?
The DIRT Workshop was held virtually this past December. Because the event was held virtually we were able to gain access to some great speakers and panelists that inspired very important discussion. The result is some of the best information out there about soil health, all concentrated in one event. We have recorded some outstanding audio from that event that I think will be tremendously valuable to include in this podcast. Today’s episode focuses on tillage. You’ll hear from: Anthony Bly, a South Dakota State University Soils Field Specialist and farmer who went full no till back in 1992 about some of the changes he’s seen both on his farm and others. Dr. Aaron Daigh, a soil physicist with North Dakota State University about what’s physically happening to the soil when it is tilled and what changes if we stop. Dr. Caley Gasch, a soil ecologist with North Dakota State University, who will share about what happens with soil biology when we reduce tillage. “That’s the age old question that we’ve heard for many years as well, “I can’t do that here”.......I know because I’ve seen it that these practices will work with about any soil situation but it takes adherence to the soil health principles.” - Anthony Bly Anthony goes on to share examples of different soil types that have found success in the soil health principles including his own. He explains his experience with making the adjustment on his own operation and the journey he has seen including “the soil is just stronger.” He shares that farmers are concerned that it may be too hard for a crop to grow but it provides the support, soil biology and water filtration that benefit the crops greatly. “We have research that shows it can be done and what the constraints are when you change to a new system. We work to try to figure out how do we get past some of those restraints but there’s plenty of folks around….that are doing it right now and have been doing it for quite some time and quite successfully.” - Dr. Aaron Daigh Dr. Daigh suggests that it took time for the technology to catch up with the no till practice and we are there now. He does allow that there are many variables from one operation to the next which will form the expectations that are possible on what timeline in different areas. The overall goal of increased production with decreased inputs is possible with adjustments for each individual type of soil. Ultimately preserving the aggregates and structure of the soil allows for better water and air penetration which leads to better availability for the crops. “Tilling for the purpose of drying the soil, you might get a wee bit of drying there but you’re working backwards on your drainage.” “The natural tendency of a soil is to develop that beautiful structure and host so much biological activity that can translate to producing a healthier crop.” - Dr. Caley Gasch After reducing tillage Dr. Gasch recommends cover crops to improve soil quality. “Plants are the foundation of the soil food web…..and so having growing plants is the next most important thing after you reduce your tillage.” As a soil ecologist Dr. Gasch focuses her efforts on the changes in soil biology with decreased tillage and use of cover crops. She suggests feeding your soils with organic material such as residue or manure. She does not feel microbial testing is necessary for each producer, rather, monitoring for symptoms of biological activity is sufficient. Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
February 1, 2021
DIRT Workshop Roundup: Strip Tillage, Cover Crops, Relay Crops, and Grazing
This is our final episode of season three. What a great season it has been! To close out season three, we wanted to bring you a highlight reel from the recent DIRT workshop. However, with two full days of material and dozens of experts weighing in on a variety of topics - there was no way to condense things down to a 30 minute Soil Sense episode. So instead, I chose to pull clips from four different individuals, each of which weighed in on a different panel during the DIRT Workshop. Today’s guests were chosen not only for great information and stories, but also because they have not yet been featured on this podcast.You’ll hear from Steven Schuster, a farmer in Minto, North Dakota, talking about strip tillage, then will hear from Stefan Gailans, who is with the Practical Farmers of Iowa talking about cover crops, then Russ Gesch from USDA ARS based out of Morris, MN who shared about relay cropping, and will finish today’s episode with rancher Jerry Doan from McKenzie, ND who describes some of this practices grazing cover crops. “It’s not necessarily about getting the highest yield. It’s about having the most profit from the yield that you are getting, and controlling risk.” - Steven Schuster “A living cover crop is still standing up. Those row units can move through that a little better, so that they don’t plug. They can cut through the cover crop in the soil, get good depth control, and cover up that furrow again.” - Stefan Gailans (on planting soybeans green) “We call these winter oilseed ‘cash cover crops’, because we’re wanting to harvest them to tap into new markets, but also getting those environmental benefits of using it as a cover crop.” - Russ Gesch, Ph.D. (on relay cropping camelina/soybean) “When I was growing up, it was wheat and summer fallow, and half of that soil is in South Dakota because that’s where it blew to back in those days. And I didn’t know if we could bring those soils back...and we’ve been really impressed by how we ARE bringing those back.” - Jerry Doan This Week on Soil Sense: Steven Schuster, farmer from Minto, ND talks about strip tillage Stefan Gailans, research and field crops director for the Practical Farmers of Iowa talks about cover crops Russ Gesch, Ph.D., research plant physiologist with USDA ARS in Morris, MN on relay cropping camelina Jerry Doan, rancher from McKenzie, ND on grazing cover crops Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
December 28, 2020
Interstate Collaboration with Bill Spiegel and Dr. Abbey Wick
Bill Spiegel is on the show today. You may know him as the Crops Editor for Successful Farming Magazine but he is also a farmer and soil health advocate. Over the last 20 years he has worked to eliminate tillage and incorporate cover crops into his operation in Kansas. Dr. Abbey Wick also joins us from the NDSU Extension to reflect on her collaboration with Bill. When he first started to explore soil health, Bill had to convince his dad. “No-till just seemed to make sense because we're in about a 24 inch rainfall area and so water was always our limiting factor….. I think at that time I kept hearing anytime you pull a disc through the field, you're going to lose two inches of soil moisture. So…. if that's our most limiting factor and we can reduce our soil evaporation and transpiration then I think we'll be money ahead” - Bill Spiegel Bill has since added cover crops to his rotation which at the time of his first attempt was considered a very “unique” practice. His hope with cover crops was to increase yields but the surprising unexpected benefits included much better weed control and a significant decrease in soil erosion. Bill found support in his soil health practices in Abbey Wick even though she is in North Dakota and not nearby his Kansas operation. “The great part of soil health is just the culture of soil health and the ways that farmers, researchers, extension and consultants, like we say, for this podcast, the way they all interact.” Dr. Abbey Wick Bill echoes Dr. Wick’s sentiment. He found that the support and community he experienced when he started engaging with others involved in promoting soil health practices was “cool” and “unique.” This Week on Soil Sense: Bill Spiegel is a farmer and Crops Editor for Successful Farming Magazine Learn about Bill’s introduction to no-till and his experiences with its practice Discover the many ways Bill has continued to encourage the health of the soil on his operation with cover crops and grazing efforts Explore the collaboration opportunities within the soil health community Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
December 21, 2020
Transitioning the Farm to the Next Generation with Kari Olson
While no-till and cover crops are slowly gaining popularity in the area, the Olson operation has been pursuing their practices for 17 years. As though that doesn’t make their operation unique enough, Kari Olson is a young female farmer who got the opportunity to farm her own ground early on shortly after graduation. While some have underestimated her abilities she has proven herself and continues to expand and learn all she can from her dad as he transitions the family land to her charge. Kari has participated in the cafe talks with Dr. Abbey Wick. Because of those discussions she went on to explore different cover crop species, techniques and even saved some of her rye for seed to reduce the risk of added weed populations. She has also recently hired someone to manage cattle grazing her cover crops to enhance the soil health of her fields and increase their organic material. “We've been soil testing every third year and, you know, watching the rates of nutrients and they’re staying up there. We still have to fertilize, but we're starting to cut back on that. Organic matter isn't decreasing anymore. It's starting to slowly increase.” - Kari Olson One problem she is trying to mitigate is the temperature of her soils which caused her corn emergence to be off. She attributes this to the residue remaining on the surface and blocking sun exposure. New equipment and new cover crops are all on the horizon to manage this issue. While she feels they haven’t achieved all the potential they will with their soil health, she has noticed a difference in the soil structure. She found the fields much more consistent and easier to manage. Kari hopes to not only preserve the ground she has been trusted with but to continue to improve it so that future generations will have the opportunities that she was able to find and take advantage of. This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Kari Olson, a young beginning farmer, who shares her perspective on soil health and the practices her operation uses Explore Kari’s experience with cover crops and no-till Learn about the challenges she has faced and the adjustments she has made Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
December 14, 2020
Bale Grazing with Erin and Drew Gaugler
**Join us virtually at the DIRT Workshop December 8th - 9th: www.DIRTWorkshopND.com** Interest continues to rise in incorporating livestock into production systems. Through funding from a SARE grant, brother and sister duo Erin and Drew Gaugler have been experimenting with bale grazing. We talk about their findings from implementing this approach, including how it has impacted soil health and the performance of their cattle. Drew returned to the family ranch in southwest North Dakota after working in oil fields around the world. Erin works full time as a Range Research Specialist at NDSU’s Central Grasslands Research Extension Center near Streeter and is still actively involved in the operation. They applied for a grant from SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program) to implement and evaluate a new bale grazing technique. “I guess what we've realized has been a real benefit ...is that bail grazing can be set up in lots of different ways, depending on your interest, your resources and your commitment to time involved with it, or wanting to have less to do with it.” - Erin Gaugler Sections are isolated with temporary fencing and rotated to concentrate and control the cattle’s effects on the field. The initial goal for the operation was to reduce feeding costs for cattle. Drew has observed soil health benefits, a reduction in labor costs and an improvement in the cattle behavior and stress levels. Initially there was concern that the left over residue would hinder future perennial crop growth if not redistributed. However, Drew shares that the residue left from the hay has not required any additional management and has encouraged perennial crop growth. “On one soil test spot it had roughly three pounds of available nitrogen per acre and the direct bale grazing response went to 70 pounds of available nitrogen per acre. That’s a drastic spot but that was to show how change can be fueled.” - Drew Gaugler While not every location experienced that marked of an improvement, overall both Drew and Erin observed impressive results by virtue of added organic material and bale residue. In addition to soil health, another benefit is the flexibility of this system which could allow a producer to focus on bale grazing efforts only a couple days a week giving them the opportunity to pursue other goals concurrently.
December 1, 2020
The Importance of Extension with Dr. Greg Lardy
**Join us virtually at the DIRT Workshop December 8th - 9th: www.DIRTWorkshopND.com** Extension has a rich history in keeping producers informed and up to date. Dr. Greg Lardy has seen the growth and expansion of these programs and gives us insight into what makes the extension valuable and how it is adapting to the changing times. A beef cattle nutritionist by training, Dr. Lardy is currently the Vice President for Agricultural Affairs at North Dakota State University. In this capacity, he serves as the Dean of the College of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Natural Resources; the Director of the NDSU Extension, and the Director of the North Dakota Experiment Station. So basically day-today he is tasked with managing all activities that relate to agriculture at NDSU. “How we deliver programs has changed, but the core mission of what we do in terms of using education to transform lives and help people see a better future and achieve a better future is really still at the very heart of what we do” - Dr. Greg Lardy Dr. Lardy remembers as a child visiting the extension building to find a wall of printed bulletins that producers could look through to find answers to their questions. Producers are now accessing internet sources to find these answers. Keeping research and information more readily accessible has been a priority for the extension program whether that be online, in person or in printed material. Beyond offering the information, Dr. Lardy also emphasizes the importance of creating measurable metrics to identify the efficacy of the information being shared. Going forward, Dr. Lardy sees the need for a continual and perpetual push for connectivity with producers and consumers. “Even though we are engaged right now with stakeholders, we've got to be more engaged with listening to the needs of our constituents and taxpayers out there. What are they saying? What do they need to help them live better lives across the state of North Dakota?” - Dr Greg Lardy This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Dr. Greg Lardy, Dean of the College of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Natural Resources and the Director of the NDSU Extension Explore the core mission of the Extension Program and what it offers producers Discover how the program is continually evolving to be more accessible and stay relevant with producers and their needs. Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
November 23, 2020
Managing Low pH Soils with Ryan Buetow and Nathan Thomas
**Join us virtually at the DIRT Workshop December 8th - 9th: www.DIRTWorkshopND.com** “What can I do to correct low pH in no-till systems in a corn/soybean rotation? Here in southeast South Dakota, we’ve got a lot of low pH areas and fields and it is a pretty big challenge to get them corrected.” - Brad Farrell To answer this question, we are joined by Nathan Thomas, a fourth generation farmer from southwest North Dakota, and Ryan Buetow, a NDSU Extension Cropping Systems specialist based out of the Dickinson Research Extension Center. Nathan and Ryan have been collaborating to manage the low pH on Nathan’s farm and share their findings and plans going forward. “We’re really seeing (acidity) where that nitrogen is being put every year. The higher the amount of nitrogen, the quicker it’s going to happen especially at the edges of the field where they are turning around and maybe accidentally putting on twice the amount of nitrogen.” - Ryan Buetow This has generally gone unnoticed over the years because most soil testing involves a deep sample which may dilute the acidic pH that is found closer to the surface of the soil. Decreasing unnecessary nitrogen applications, increasing organic matter and trying humic acid inputs are the many strategies Nathan is trying to increase the pH in the soil. Acidic pH allows for a more significant bioavailability of the aluminum and manganese naturally found in soils to the crops. Some crops seem to be more sensitive to these soil chemistry changes than others. Lime applications are the typical treatment for acidic soils but are less effective without the physical incorporation of tilling it into the soil which creates an additional challenge for no-till operations. “We started to look into lime right away, and we found three available sources that we could use (pellet, sugar beet, water treatment). They all have positives and negatives.” - Nathan Thomas This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Nathan Thomas, a farmer in southwest North Dakota, and Ryan Buetow, a NDSU Extension Cropping Systems specialist Explore what causes acidic soils and how that can affect crops Discover the challenges of treating acidic soils especially in no-till systems Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
November 16, 2020
Cultivating the Right Mindset with Monica McConkey, LPC
**Join us virtually at the DIRT Workshop December 8th - 9th: www.DIRTWorkshopND.com** The right mindset isn’t just something you can set and forget. Farmers that choose to pursue soil health in their practices have changed how they view their relationship and impact on the soil. This mindset has to be maintained continuously over time. That goes for soil health, but it also goes for mental health as well. That’s the topic for today’s episode. Uncertainty, which is par for the course in agriculture, can really amplify stress and anxiety. Add on to that the desire to try new practices and a challenging economic environment, and you have a recipe for a very high stress environment. “Farmers are faced with so many uncontrollables, uncertainties and unknowns any of which can ultimately determine success or failure in their operation....That really affects mental health in the sense that they can work and work and plan and put in effort and at the end of the day, it’s something outside of their control that’s impacting them.” - Monica McConkey, LPC Monica McConkey is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and rural mental health specialist with Eyes on the Horizon Consulting. Her main contract is with the farm business management program in Minnesota. This is a legislatively funded position involved with mental health outreach for farmers and farm families throughout the state. She meets with farmers several times per week helping them with the unique stressors that farmers face. Monica grew up on a farm and understands farming. “Our farmers are dealing with chronic stress, years of difficult commodity prices and some regulatory issues that some have dealt with. It's just a difficult time. So it's not like the changes happen overnight. It's been years of accumulating stress that has caused them to be more isolating.” - Monica McConkey, LPC Isolation, family dynamics and access to mental health care are additional pressures felt by rural communities. Oftentimes, these stressors are minimized as part of the agriculture experience. Monica recommends paying attention to those closest with you and if they have mentioned that “they are worried about you” or “you don’t seem the same as before” then perhaps it is time to reach out for help. Generally others will notice it about their peers before they can identify it in themselves. Disruption of baseline functioning in habits such as sleep, panic attacks, or interruptions in being able to do what you need to are all red flags for a struggling mental health. “So if there's lessons to learn from the past or mistakes or regrets, take those lessons, but then you need to move in one direction and that's forward. And there's no easy trick for doing that. It is really intentional thinking.” - Monica McConkey, LPC This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Monica McConkey, a rural mental health specialist with Eyes on the Horizon Consulting Discover how rural mental health presents its own unique challenges Explore the different ways intentional thinking can affect your day to day functioning Learn about how to find resources in your community and reach out if you think you might benefit from some additional help Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
November 9, 2020
Strategies for Keeping Living Roots in the Soil with Paul Thomas
**Join us virtually at the DIRT Workshop December 8th - 9th: www.DIRTWorkshopND.com** Finding the best fit for your operation takes consideration, planning and a willingness to try new things. Paul Thomas, a farmer near Velva, North Dakota, exemplifies these ideals. Paul joins us to discuss his experience with no till, growing lentils underseeded with alfalfa, trying an oat/pea intercop and relay cropping soybeans into spring wheat and oats. Paul reflects on what strategies have shown the most benefit for him and his farm. “I think managing those crop rotations and having the right amount of residue on your soil and the right amount of residue to feed the biology in the soil is probably as important if not more important than even the tillage practice or seeding practice that you choose to use.” - Paul Thomas Paul took over farming healthy soils from his father’s organic practices and has continued to try to build his soil organic matter, although he chose to do so without keeping all of the organic practices. Through cover crops, intercropping, and relay crops, he is attempting to keep living roots in his system as much as possible. “If you just try and copy someone else’s system and that’s not where you’re really at, where your heart’s at or where your goals are at, it's probably not going to work for you.” - Paul Thomas Paul emphasizes the effects of having active root systems in his fields always. He highlights that it doesn’t have to have a lot of growth above the soil to provide benefit below the soil. Cover crops are what has been most beneficial for him. Some of his trials have gone as planned and some have not, relay cropping being one of them. He is rethinking that process and possibly introducing canola. Paul’s focus is efficiency and economics and with that in mind he will always be rethinking and tweaking his process to make his operation the best it can be. This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Paul Thomas, a farmer near Velva, North Dakota Discover how Paul has incorporated different practices into his operation Explore the lessons he has learned and the choices he has made Learn about his philosophy towards farming with a focus on efficiency and economics Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
November 2, 2020
Grazing Management with Dr. Miranda Meehan
**Join us virtually at the DIRT Workshop December 8th - 9th: www.DIRTWorkshopND.com** Incorporating livestock into your soil health program can seem daunting. Dr. Miranda Meehan is the Livestock Environmental Stewardship Specialist at NDSU Extension in the Animal Sciences Department. Her current research focuses on grazing management of cover crops. While cover crops can encourage soil health the return on investment may take some years to realize. “The best way to get an economic return quickly on implementing or integrating cover crops is by integrating livestock into that system.” - Dr. Miranda Meehan To date there isn’t a lot of research specifically focused on the impacts of grazing management within cover crop systems. Dr. Meehan is working on better defining some key factors to help producers plan out their options. The terminology can be confusing but Dr. Meehan breaks it down for us. Stock density is the “number of animals per unit area.” Stocking rate is a “management decision on the number of animals we put out there” based on the number and type of cattle you intend to use. Carrying capacity is the available forage for those animals to graze. Dr. Meehan would like to be able to give farmers the list of soil health benefits as well as the economic benefits. “We want to take a closer look at that so we could answer those questions and provide that information and hopefully enhance management within grazing cover crop systems.” - Dr. Miranda Meehan Dr. Meehan recommends contacting your county extension agent to start determining the stocking rate and carrying capacity of your operation. There is also a grazing calculator app available on iTunes or Google Play that will help calculate some of those options. The county extension can also help you determine what cattle in what phase of production would best fit your cover crop options. Dr. Meehan recommends partnering with a livestock producer in your area when first trialing livestock management on cover crops and building from there. This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Dr. Miranda Meehan, Livestock Environmental Stewardship Specialist at NDSU Extension in the Animal Sciences Department Explore what ongoing research is happening to better define livestock management options for grazing cover crops Discover how Dr. Meehan recommends starting this process on your operation Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
October 26, 2020
Educating the Next Generation with Ag Teacher Whitney Landman
Agriculture teachers are responsible for not only teaching agricultural principles to the youth of today but also for encouraging their experience in agriculture and to promote leadership in whatever field they choose. Whitney Landman joins us from Larimore High School in Larimore, North Dakota. Whitney teaches both junior high and high school classes starting with introductory classes and ranging all the way to ag mechanics and community development. “We always try to start with that intro level and exploring….so that we can bounce up into other concepts as well when they are older.” - Whitney Landman Beyond the classroom, Whitney is also the FFA advisor. Her students are encouraged to participate in career development events and leadership development events. These events promote public speaking, leadership roles, agronomy identification and business management skills. “The mission of agriculture education is to prepare students for successful careers and choices in the global agriculture, food, fiber and natural resource system…..So my goal, and I think a lot of teachers’ goal as they lead the ag ed program, is that our students find a career that they love, whether that's in ag or not.” - Whitney Landman Whitney highlights the importance of hands on experience for her students and the significant impact that can have on her students' interest and concept understanding. She likes to see them “get active with the content” to encourage curiosity and excitement. Support from the NRCS helps her achieve these goals in allowing students to experiment with different soil health protocols including the effects of wind erosion and conventional tillage. She happily uses resources including local farmers to give her students more opportunity to see agriculture in action and learn skills they might not be able to gain otherwise. This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Whitney Landman, an agricultural education teacher from Larimore High School in Larimore, North Dakota Learn about the many classes her program offers to its students Explore what she finds most effective for teaching new concepts to students Hear about the many collaborations she has engaged in to give her students the most opportunity to learn Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
October 19, 2020
Rock and Roll Agronomy with Jason Hanson
Agronomists play a significant role in following the progressive research in agronomic practices and assisting farmers in their operations. Jason Hanson is an Independent Crop Consultant with Rock and Roll Agronomy based in Webster, North Dakota. Jason has a long history of providing objective agronomic information to farmers and today he shares his take on what the role of his agronomist is. He also shares his perspective on cover crops which are slowly gaining popularity in his area. “It’s about managing sunlight on the ground. It’s that simple. When it comes to weed control, that's where a cover crop can come in and provide you part of that deal, so you don’t have growth. It’s just a different way of doing it. You’re not dumping something in the sprayer, you’re putting something in the air seeder to do that.” - Jason Hanson Jason shares the importance of networking and forming relationships with scientists and producers in your area to learn about new ideas and technologies. He is forever learning and forever adjusting his recommendations based on the environmental circumstances producers are presented with. “Logistics beats agronomy seven days a week.” - Jason Hanson Jason adjusts his recommendations and expectations based on many factors just as the goals and opportunities of his producers are also dynamic. If a planting window shifts plans are adjusted to accommodate it. He sees the future of agriculture being an interest in inputs with regards to carbon levels and biological activity. “Everyone wants the quick easy answer…..and it's complicated,” shares Jason. “To me, that is the next step where ag is going. It’s going to be finding those things that we can use to enhance disease control, nutrient uptake, and yield potential, that are naturally occurring.” - Jason Hanson This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Jason Hanson an Independent Crop Consultant with Rock and Roll Agronomy Learn about his approach to agronomy with his clients and with staying on top of ongoing research and developments Hear about what he thinks is the most significant benefit to cover crops Explore “Agronomy on Ice” and learn how to join your agronomic community Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
October 12, 2020
Cover Crops: Science, Practice, and Mindset with Greg Amundson and Greg Endres
We have talked about cover crops a lot on this podcast. Today we speak with both a farmer and an extension agronomist about the decision-making required to introduce cover crops into an operation. Greg Amundson is a 4th generation farmer who farms with his dad near Gilby, North Dakota. Amundson began his venture with cover crops through an EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program) with the NRCS. He explains how he approaches farming from a strict bottom line perspective when he says “I don’t push for top yields. I push for the top return.” “You don’t learn from your successes, you learn from your failures. So if you don’t fail, you don’t know if what you’re doing is right or wrong.” Greg Amundson We are also joined by Greg Endres, a Cropping Systems Specialist with NDSU Extension. Endres focuses his efforts on bringing more data to cover crop decision making as cover crops are generally new to many productions. He hopes to make the information available to producers in order to make the most informed and beneficial decisions. “If we have university data for people as a starting point for cover crops, that’ll give them a better chance of being successful with their cover crop and soil health program.” - Greg Endres Endres shares that there is not a “one size fits all” to success with cover crops. Environmental factors and crop rotation considerations must be taken into account when making decisions about what cover crops to plant and when. “It all boils down to the amount of moisture and especially timely moisture,” explains Endres. While a cover crop can provide many benefits to the soil he cautions producers from discounting the amount of soil moisture the rye or other cover crop will take up and eliminate from any interseeded crops. One study is exploring the measurement of soil moisture to determine the rye termination date with the understanding that a poorly timed killing of the rye can adversely affect the yield of the main cash crop. While interseeding with a cover crop can present this risk of limited resources for crop yield, as always there are many apparent benefits to be factored in. “The winter rye can serve as a substitute for a pre-emergence soil applied herbicide. So in other words, you can either use rye as a suppressant and terminate the rye when appropriate. That rye will hold back weeds quite nicely. And it can be a substitute for a soil applied herbicide…..So you’re trading management with herbicide usage.” - Greg Endres This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Greg Endres, a Cropping Systems Specialist at NDSU Extension and Greg Amundson, a fourth generation farmer in North Dakota. Explore how Amundson approaches the addition of cover crops to his operation and the improvements he has observed Learn from Endres about ongoing research and factors that affect your cover crop selections and management Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
October 5, 2020
Interseeding Cover Crops for Livestock Forage with Dr. Marisol Berti and Dr. Yvonne Lawley
Today we focus on interseeding cover crops with forage quality in mind and exciting areas for ongoing research. We are joined by Dr. Marisol Berti, a professor in the Department of Plant Sciences at North Dakota State University, and Dr. Yvonne Lawley, an Assistant Professor in the Plant Science Department at the University of Manitoba. “When people want to get into cover crops….we can’t really give you a recipe. We need to know what do you want the cover crops for? You know, if you want forage in the fall or forage in the spring, you’re going to have to change some practices.” - Dr. Marisol Berti Dr. Berti found that intercropping corn with legumes such as alfalfa will provide a good forage and from a behavioral standpoint encourage the cattle to graze the field for longer periods of time in the winter because of a windbreak provided by the corn stocks. Unfortunately, there was not evidence of usable nitrogen left in the soil for the next crop. So if there isn’t the added benefit of nitrogen with interseeding, how do producers recover the added expense of cover crops while still providing forage? “One way to get it back is when you raise cover crops, animals gain weight and that actually pays for the cover crops. So integrating with livestock really pays for the cover crops.” - Dr. Marisol Berti Dr. Lawley shares that “science is exciting because one idea leads to a new question.” Many were surprised about the lack of nitrogen fixation after adding a legume to the corn crop. She shares that the research is ongoing and we are learning more about these fundamental processes which allow us to recommend agronomic adjustments. That in turn will allow for more accurate predictions of benefits and risks for producers. "We wanted to harness all of the potential of corn as a feed crop but then use intercropping to overcome some of its weaknesses." - Dr. Yvonne Lawley This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Dr. Marisol Berti and Dr. Yvonne Lawley Explore the benefits of interseeding corn with forage type cover crops and find out how to get the most benefit out of the process Learn about ongoing research to understand the processes involved in this technique in production Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
September 28, 2020
Stories of Soil Health with Gil Gullickson
Gil Gullickson is the Crops Technology Editor at Successful Farming Magazine. Over the last three decades he has reported on agriculture in multiple publications. He has the benefit of having years of experience studying and discussing movements and changes in agriculture. Gil grew up on a farm in South Dakota. That background has greatly influenced his reporting style. “So I kind of try to put myself in those shoes, in that neighborhood I grew up, and ask those questions that my neighbors would want to ask.” - Gil Gullickson Gil has been able to watch, reflect and report on the incorporation of soil health building practices into operations. Apart from the soil health benefits he has seen farmers gain more financial flexibility by pursuing soil health initiatives with year round cropping and calls it a “phenomenal impact.” Gil said he has observed that many of these soil health changes made over time have been a welcomed by-product of a focus on better water management practices. “It’s not about no-till, it's not about cover crops. It’s not about diverse rotations. It's not about soil microbes. It's not about bio-engineered soil. It's about water management and these are all tools that enable farmers to better manage water.” - Gil Gullickson Some operations not only improve their soil health but can save money from the onset in some soil health practices. Gil shares the significance of a great idea or movement taking time to marinate, develop and grow. He uses the example of an article he published called “Surefire Ways to Sustain Your Farm” that evolved overtime by gathering different farmers' perspectives. He maintains that when evaluating technology the bottom line has to be prominent in the decision making. “When you’re adopting technology make sure it's going to return investment on your farm.” Gil Gullickson This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Gil Gullickson a seasoned agriculture journalist who currently works as the Crops Technology Editor at Successful Farming Magazine Gil reflects on the changes and trends in soil health over the last few decades Explore the many reasons farmers get involved in soil health practices that extend beyond the benefits to the soil itself Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
September 21, 2020
Systems Thinking with Woody Van Arkel and Dr. Lee Briese
Very little in this world is all or none and soil health protocols are no different. There is no one size fits all for every operation. “There’s a grey area in between that needs to be addressed” says Woody Van Arkel, a farmer in Ontario. Woody shares that some crops, specifically vegetable farming, require special handling and field management that cannot exclude all tilling practices. This resonates well with Central Crop Consulting Agronomist Dr. Lee Briese. “I work with enough farmers that do a lot of different things and you understand right away that there’s more than one way to do things. ….The goal here is to produce a crop and do it well while protecting the resources.” - Dr. Lee Briese Lee recommends having producers create well defined “clear and attainable” goals such as managing water, managing soil or reducing erosion. While profitability is the underlying mission that isn’t specific enough to focus your efforts. A well-framed goal will create a measurable benchmark to better evaluate for change and success. Lee also cautions producers from “painting themselves into a corner” by prematurely picking the cover crop they would like to start with. He recommends considering what herbicides you want to use and how the residue will be managed and then determine the cover crop that best fits that program. Being flexible and considering long term planning with outcomes is critical to the success of new practices. While using these recommendations, Woody has been persuaded to choose a different cover crop mix than he would have otherwise. “The goal is maybe not so much cover crop diversity as getting the living root system established that works. A practical system that works for the biggest part.” - Woody Van Arkel The collaboration of Woody and Lee has created a healthy dynamic of seeking advice and not just validation. Because every situation and operation is unique they bounce ideas off of each other in order to decide what would be the best fit towards Woody’s goals. “Using my scientific background and my experiences to try to...reduce his risk is really the way I see this for growers is just trying to make things fit so that it fits their farm, their machinery, their timing, their goals, to reduce their risk.” - Dr. Lee Briese This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Woody Van Arkel a farmer in Ontario Explore the collaboration created between him and agronomist Dr. Lee Briese Learn the philosophy these two share in regards to soil health practices Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
September 14, 2020
Field Check: Decades of Soil Health Building Practices
“I’m always curious about the stories behind soil health and how the farmers choose to use these practices. And so I was wondering if someone could help answer a question on how they got started in soil health, the practices they may have tried over the years, things that worked and didn’t work, and what they’re going to try in the future to keep these practices going on their farm? ” - Dr. Abbey Wick, NDSU Extension Soil Health Specialist Kerry Swindler farms near Mott, North Dakota. He started no-tilling in the early 80s and became involved in the ManDak Zero-Till Association, which was a group of pioneering farmers interested in creating healthier soils in Manitoba and North Dakota. “When we started no-tilling in the early 80’s. That was part of the challenge for us is getting some of the organic matter back into the soil so that it would just stay where it belongs. It wouldn’t blow so easy, it wouldn’t wash when we had a heavy rain.” - Kerry Swindler Kerry describes the major shifts in soil management protocols that began with hopes of preventing further soil erosion. During a sunflower harvest, Kerry noticed how difficult it was to move the combine across the field due to a loss of top soil. That started them “down a path” of transitioning to no-till. Kerry reports “it didn’t take long to start seeing some of the benefits.” “The first thing, there was a lot less wind erosion. Right out of the gate… It didn’t take too many years and we started seeing a bump up in our organic matter of our soils….It was exciting to see.” - Kerry Swindler After 40 years of no-till practices he is noticing a plateau of added benefits but he is not done. He wants to continue to improve his fields and is now exploring cover crops. “I think there’s more to go and that's where I am.” “I’m happy with where we are….. I hesitate to even think what it would look like if we hadn’t done this. It would be a disaster.” - Kerry Swindler Follow the link www.NDFieldCheck.com to participate in our next question and answer segment to share your questions and get them answered by the experts! Connect with Soil Sense at Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
August 31, 2020
Field Check: Understanding Soil Biology
“I’ve been farming for 40 years and for the last 4 years we’ve adopted an approach of conservation agriculture and have shifted to no till drilling. I suppose like many of my generation, have firmly embraced the physical side of managing our soils and the chemical side of managing our soils. But it’s only recently while appreciating how important our soil is that I’ve looked at the biology of our soils. How do we make that subject more understandable to more farmers than it currently is?” - Paul Temple, Farmer from the United Kingdom Dr. Samiran Banerjee is a Professor of Microbiology at North Dakota State University. His focus of study includes understanding microbial patterns in agricultural soils and determining what drives their functions. “The microbial world is complex but really important. Microbes are really important for soil functioning. Microbes are important for crop health and soil health. Although we cannot see them we have to understand them.” - Dr. Samiran Banerjee Dr. Banerjee is involved in the Soil Microbiome Project at NDSU. “We collected samples from over 200 farms….and at 3 different stages of crops,” shares Dr Banerjee. They then set out to identify microbial patterns and influencers. They hope to create a database of microbial patterns including populations, drivers and functions at different times during the growing season. With this information, an index will be developed which will demonstrate what different practices could impact specific soil microbial properties. “We want to link the soil microbial information to the management information to find out what changes we can make to promote crop beneficial microbes.” Dr. Samirin Banerjee This could impact soil biological applications, what inputs could promote productivity of an optimal microbiome and help to predict microbial patterns in soil. Providing this practical tailored information to the farmer gives them valuable insight into the microscopic health of their soil. Follow the link www.NDFieldCheck.com to participate in our next question and answer segment to share your questions and get them answered by the experts! Connect with Soil Sense at Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
August 24, 2020
Field Check: Infiltration During Intense Rain Events
“We’ve been having significant rain events the last couple of years. 2 inches, 3 inches, 5 inches at a time. And I’m just curious, what can I do in my soil health program to ensure that the soil keeps as much rainfall as possible? I hate to see soil leaving my fields after working so hard in no till and cover crops to keep it in place.” - Bill Spiegel, Kansas Farmer and Successful Farming Magazine Editor Dr. Aaron Daigh is an Associate Professor of Soil Physics and Hydrology at North Dakota State University in the Soil Science Department. His focus is studying how things move in the ground including water, chemicals, heat and the soil itself. “When you get very heavy rainfall…..you can count on no matter what you’re doing out in the field that some portion of that is going to go to runoff because most soils just simply cannot take in that much water in that short of a period.” - Dr. Aaron Daigh The water that is absorbed by the soil then adds value based on where it is stored. If it is stored shallow, in the first 6 inches, you can run into issues with “root rot, fungal diseases, wilting and drowning of that crop. “The portion of the water that goes deeper into the soil profile is ideal because you put water to where it can be stored for later for that crop when it’s needed.” Another added benefit to having water infiltrate deeper in the soil profile is keeping the soil stronger which will reduce future erosion and support equipment during harvest. Dr. Daigh suggests farmers make every attempt to not disrupt the soil anymore than necessary in order to increase its strength and contribute to water infiltration. “Reducing the amount of disturbance that you have to that soil through aggressive tillage practices, helps get more water down these big macro pores that move water down deeper into the soil profile to be stored and prevent abundance of runoff and water erosion.” Dr. Aaron Daigh Cover crops will also reduce disruption of soil by major rainfall which can be substantial. “The higher the residue rate, the slower that water’s going to move across and have a chance to infiltrate down into the soil and prevent what is running off from picking up speed as it goes down the landscape.” Follow the link www.NDFieldCheck.com to participate in our next question and answer segment to share your questions and get them answered by the experts! Connect with Soil Sense at Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
August 17, 2020
Field Check: Managing the Complexities of Adding a New Crop
“How do farmers add more crops in their cropping rotation and manage the complexity of doing that in their farm operation?” - Jocelyn Velsestuk, Independent Agronomy Consultant for Western Ag, the President of the Saskatchewan Soil Conservation Association and a Director of The Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission Dr. David Ripplinger is an Associate Professor in the Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics at North Dakota State University. He considers himself “an economist by training” but also a “systems thinker” and joins us to address Jocelyn's question. “I would start with extension. Go and talking to folks like us to get some information.” - Dr. David Ripplinger Dr. Ripplinger has some calculated budgets that can give possible projected yields and earnings for the farmer to understand what the outcome of a more complex operation may be. He asks farmers to consider the economics, the impact a new crop would have on your soil and how that may affect your input needs in future years. Finally, farmers need to also consider how to market a new crop to know what additional resources that may require. “You should never put a seed in the ground before you know what the likely home for that crop is.” “There’s these agronomic trade offs, there’s these financial trade offs….understand the system as a whole which I think farmers generally do. Understand that change you’re making. Do some quick back of the envelope work and then decide how much do I need to really look at this to pull the trigger.” -Dr. David Ripplinger Follow the link www.NDFieldCheck.com to participate in our next question and answer segment to share your questions and get them answered by the experts! Connect with Soil Sense at Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
August 10, 2020
Field Check: Getting Started with Cover Crops
“I’m getting the question about farmers wanting to plant a cover crop. But it's kind of a generic statement. So I think what they’re really asking is what do I plant and when do I plant? Where do I start? Where do we begin on this journey? ” - Jason Hanson, Consultant with Rock and Roll Agronomy Dr. Abbey Wick is a Soil Health Extension Specialist at North Dakota State University. She offers some great advice for farmers wanting to venture into cover crops and the many benefits they offer. “The simplest place to start is if you have a wheat in rotation, just let the volunteer grow and that’s your first cover crop. If you have some additional goals that you want to address, whether its compaction in a field or salinity. Say you dig a hole in your field and the soil aggregates or the structure looks like it could use a little help then adding in some different cover crops to that volunteer wheat might be a good solution.” - Dr. Abbey Wick If you don’t have wheat in your rotation then Dr. Wick offers interseeding something like rye into corn. Interseeding practices may require different row spacing so farmers need to be aware of those potential changes. Soybeans present a different challenge as they produce a strong canopy that may make it difficult for a cover crop to get established. Dr. Wick recommends adjusting your timing and method of seeding to compensate for this obstacle. Cover crops can help manage salinity issues where soybeans or corn may suffer. They can help provide structure and better trafficability to the field. Most farmers will start with one species of cover crop at a time but a cocktail of species can be used. Typically radish or rye can be used as first cover crops depending on what rotation that field has. There are pros and cons to each species and how they interact with what the next crop is. Dr Wick highlights that knowing the crop you are adding to your field, knowing the next crop in rotation to avoid any contraindicated cover crops and knowing your goals are the three critical things to consider when starting with cover crops. “Cover crops don’t have to be fancy mixes and they don’t have to be really complex to work. And I think that’s what I want farmers to walk away with.” - Dr. Abbey Wick Follow the link www.NDFieldCheck.com to participate in our next question and answer segment to share your questions and get them answered by the experts! Connect with Soil Sense at Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
August 3, 2020
Field Check: Hybrid Rye
“Hybrid small grain varieties seem to be gaining traction in some parts of Canada and the United States. What are the benefits and drawbacks of hybrid rye, wheat and barley varieties?” - Luke Struckman, Researcher and University Instructor based in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Steve Zwinger is a Field Agronomist at the North Dakota State University Carrington Extension Center where he works with many cereal crops including hybrid varieties of rye. “Some of these hybrids have been in in order to go over 200 or up to 200 bushels per acre range…..so the yield potential is there.” - Steve Zwinger Steve continues with the hybrid rye advantages by explaining a shorter pollination window resulting in less ergot and a more uniform growth resulting in less lodge. With all of these advantages he does report a higher priced seed which depending on your market may not be worth the expense. At this time, Steve doesn’t know of too many farmers growing hybrid rye although seed production has begun. There have been many attempts at producing a hybrid wheat. According to Steve “there are probably still people working on it, but there’s nothing commercially available.” Ultimately what was produced was not commercially viable enough to encourage ongoing research and development. Follow the link www.NDFieldCheck.com to participate in our next question and answer segment to share your questions and get them answered by the experts! Connect with Soil Sense at Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
July 27, 2020
Field Check: Fertility for No Till Corn
“What is the best way to get all your fertility down in a no-till corn situation, especially your P and K?” - Kyle Geske, a Farmer from Enderlin, North Dakota Dr. Dave Franzen, an Extension Soil Specialist at North Dakota State University, joins us to answer Kyle’s question. Dr. Franzen has extensive experience in both research and retail agronomy. You may recognize him from Season one of Soil Sense Episode Three and Episode Four. “It is really important in the northern plains, specifically in North Dakota, to use a starter at planting time, at least for the phosphate.” - Dr. Dave Franzen Dr. Franzen has seen some significant yield increase in no-till corn operations that have employed a starter phosphate application. He shares that the weather for planting for a no-till operation results in cooler temperatures for those farmers. The additional phosphate will help support plants in the face of those cooler temperatures and lead to dramatic yield increases. He also highlights the need for additional nitrogen for the first 6 years of transition from a conventional till to no-till operation. There are 14 essential nutrients that the plants need, 10 of which we have effective testing for. Nitrate testing is probably the most valuable and most significant of all the values evaluated. He does caution any producer that is testing for Potassium. Potassium values change dramatically depending on the season so consistent testing at the same time every year is critical for evaluating potassium trends in the soil. “And then the Sulfur Soil test. I know sometimes you get it as part of a soil test suite but it’s a horrible test and people shouldn’t even pay attention to it.” - Dr Dave Franzen Follow the link www.NDFieldCheck.com to participate in our next question and answer segment to share your questions and get them answered by the experts! Connect with Soil Sense at Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
July 20, 2020
Field Check: The Tradeoffs of Planting Green
“I like seeding soybeans green into growing winter rye for a variety of reasons. I think trafficability and weed control are much better with 40 or 50 pounds of rye growing in the field. The tradeoff is that the rye and the existing stubble keep the ground colder and wetter in some years, so the soybeans have a hard time getting going. My question is, is there any way to have warmer drier ground in the spring and reap the other benefits of planting green?” - Nathan Neameyer, Farmer from Rolla, ND. Dr. Lee Briese joins us to help answer Nathan’s question. Lee is a Crop Consultant covering Stutsman and Barnes Counties for Centrol Crop Consulting. Lee has been scouting fields and providing recommendations to farmers in North Dakota for over 20 years. Lee was featured in episode six of season one of Soil Sense. Lee emphasizes that planting soybeans green into cereal rye does involve tradeoffs. “It’s actually protecting the soil, reducing evaporation, and slowing down the heating of it, and that is a concern for him early season. But the rye is also doing the same thing to the weeds. It’s giving you weed control. It’s protecting your soil moisture loss. So it’s helping you with your seed bed and emergence. I think it’s one of those things at this point, I’m not sure we can have both.” - Dr. Lee Briese Lee says there are things that can be done to optimize the benefits of the cereal rye without slowing down the soybeans as much early on, such as reducing the planted population of rye or a wider row spacing. He also cautions to make sure that the concern is not just a matter of perception. “We know that soybean tolerates a lot of difficulty, especially early in the season....so the appearance of the soybeans early on is not necessarily a critical factor. We do know that early planted soybeans - early flowering soybeans - have a better chance at having higher yields. But for much of North Dakota, the yield is fairly directly correlated to ‘when do we get rain during flowering?’.” - Dr. Lee Briese Lee also recommends that farmers check their soil temps well into the season when evaluating the tradeoffs of planting green into cereal rye. Follow the link www.NDFieldCheck.com to participate in our next question and answer segment to share your questions and get them answered by the experts! Connect with Soil Sense at Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
July 13, 2020
Field Check: How to Revive Nutrient-Depleted Forage Ground
“Recently I bought a piece of land that most of it has been hay land for generations. So there’s been a lot of nutrients exported and I’ve been trying to intentionally replace nutrients. I was just wondering what kind of a cover crop strategy would you employ on something like that given the season, particularly for fall grazing? When would you sow? What would you sow? What kind of mixes? How much per acre? Mainly to be harvested as standing stockpile by cows and some sheep. How would you approach this piece of land that’s mostly 85% to 90% crested wheat at this point? What kind of cover crops would you introduce and why?” - Clay Conry, Host of Working Cows Podcast Dr. Kevin Sedivec joins us to help answer Clay’s question. Dr. Sedivec is the Extension Rangeland Management Specialist at North Dakota State University Extension and Director of the Central Grasslands Research Extension Center. You may remember him from Episode 006 of Soil Sense Season 2. Dr. Sedivec shares that this is a common obstacle faced by producers. In trying to rejuvenate pastures for grazing, producers are asking annuals to compete with long established perennials. The perennial plants will take up water and will have contributed to a nitrogen deficient soil. Typically these long established perennials are exotic in origin and therefore do not have a natural symbiosis established with the environment. “So you’re asking a grass to do something in that soil that it doesn’t naturally do because it’s not native. It becomes deficient of fertility is what’s really driving this. So we’re trying to bring something in to enhance that soil microbial population....the most common (legume) used is alfalfa.” - Dr. Kevin Sedivec Unfortunately the long term fix for deficient soils takes more than one season. Dr. Sedivec recommends beginning with a legume mix to start the process. There are regional variations with which legume mix will be most successful and Dr. Sedivec recommends contacting your local NRCS or extension agent to find what suits your situation best. In Clay’s case he recommends using a yellow blossom alfalfa at 10 pounds per acre and either seeding in the fall or early spring. “That will give them a long term fix of a legume with his grass. We’re putting exotics and exotics but it at least will help him, one, in terms of production and, two, it will help him in terms of soil fertility and soil microbial activity to kind of get that soil back into a healthy state.” - Dr. Kevin Sedivec Ideally we would like to add more species to the mix but according to Dr. Sedivec “that’s probably the best we can do to enhance (Clay’s) production and quality in those soils in that stand.” Adding nitrogen can also help with helping to build the soils. An additive, such as urea, will not last long term but will provide benefit for the new crops planted as you build your soil. Strategies can be adjusted for more long term management including cover crops as the soils change. Follow the link www.NDFieldCheck.com to participate in our next question and answer segment to share your questions and get them answered by the experts! Connect with Soil Sense at Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
July 6, 2020
Field Check: Cutworms in Soybeans Planted Green into Cover Crop
“I heard from a customer the other day about cutworms in a soybean field that was planted green into cereal rye. I was wondering if this is common and do we need to recommend scouting for cutworms or other pests when using cover crops?” - Chris Prochnow, Territory Manager for Agassiz Seed and Supply Dr. Janet Knodel, an extension entomologist at North Dakota State University, joins us to help answer Chris’s question. North Dakota is home to at least 32 different species of cutworms. “Most (cutworms) do love weedy fields or grassy fields in the fall. So that’s probably why they ended up in the rye field is because it was seeded in the fall and that’s very attractive to most of the species of cutworms. And then they cause damage in the spring.” Dr. Janet Knodel Eggs are laid in the soil usually in September. Some species will stay as eggs over winter and some will hatch into larvae. The larvae or caterpillar is the damaging stage. When scouting, look for evidence of defoliation, bare spots or cut plants laying on the ground. Some species will clip the plant when it's young and some will climb them and damage the leaves. The larvae and adult moth are active at night so they may not be readily apparent during the day. “You pretty much just need to get out in the spring and scout and monitor the fields for infestation.” - Dr. Janet Knodel Four or more larvae per foot of row is the threshold for wheat, barley, oats and rye. You want to “implement your chemical controls” when they are smaller larvae. Towards the end of their feeding schedule, typically at the end of June, the larvae become more difficult to kill as they are more mature. Unfortunately there aren’t any “forecasting models” for cutworm infestation. This makes it hard to predict which field they will infest and what environments they prefer. Dr. Knodel explains this is why regular scouting is critical to managing any potential infestation.. Follow the link www.NDFieldCheck.com to participate in our next question and answer segment to share your questions and get them answered by the experts! Connect with Soil Sense at Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
June 29, 2020
Field Check: Considering Crop Rotation When Selecting Cover Crops
“I’m looking at cover crop mix to put on some ground that’s going to be seeded to wheat and barley next year. I’m wondering if barley works in that mix or if I should be looking at something else?” - Bryan Kenner of Kenner Farms Dr. Andrew Friskop joins us to answer Bryan’s question. He is a cereal extension plant pathologist at North Dakota State University. Dr. Friskop begins tackling this question by pointing out that the focus needs to be on whether already present “diseases in barley could be contributing to next year’s barley crop.” Potential risk of residue borne diseases such as fungal leaf spots, net blotch, spot blotch and Fusarium head blight need to be evaluated and are typically of most concern. However, Dr Friskop does highlight that a cover crop mix creates a different environment than a monoculture environment would. “We have a lot less plants. Those other plants might actually be barriers for some of that infection. So how I treat the situation is I would suggest that yes, there is a risk, but I wouldn’t consider it a high risk just because of some of those other factors.” - Dr. Andrew Friskop While introducing plants that may transmit disease is not ideal it seems the cover crop mix environment makes the risk of that unlikely. The two biggest risk factors for cover crops spreading disease involve soybean cyst nematode in soybeans and clubroot in canola. You ultimately want to avoid a “pathogen and disease system that’s very difficult to manage once you have it.” All that being said, “mother nature always throws us curve balls.” “We handle each season as a separate year and we just look at managing the wheat and barley crop to the best of our ability for each year.” - Dr. Andrew Friskop Follow the link www.NDFieldCheck.com to participate in our next question and answer segment to share your questions and get them answered by the experts! Connect with Soil Sense at Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
June 22, 2020
Field Check: Cereal Rye for Kochia Control + Dicamba Update
Introducing Soil Sense: Field Check. We find the right expert to answer YOUR questions about anything related to farming, agronomy, and soil health. We invite you to participate at www.NDFieldCheck.com. Today’s question comes from Jason Hanson of Rock & Roll Agronomy: “There’s going to be Prevented Plant, and now with the uncertainty of dicamba registrations moving forward, even though North Dakota is a 24(c): How does winter cereal rye help with controlling kochia as a potential other option?” To answer this excellent question that Jason has been getting, we enlisted the help of North Dakota State University Extension Weed Specialist Dr. Joe Ikley. Joe is based in Fargo and is responsible for all crops in the state except potatoes and sugar beets. He conducts weed control research primarily in corn, soybeans, and dry beans. Listen to this short Field Check episode for Dr. Ikley’s full answer, but here is one quote you may find helpful: “When we look at an overwintering cover crop like rye, we get our best weed control on winter annual weeds, but of course kochia is a summer annual weed…. (rye) does not reduce the number of plants that we are going to have to spray, but it does buy us more time to get a timely herbicide application on there.” Follow the link www.NDFieldCheck.com to participate in our next question and answer segment to share your questions and get them answered by the experts! Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
June 15, 2020
Collaborations to Advance Soil Health
Today we review some fascinating examples of advancing soil health. One individual farmer interested in these new practices will find a lot of obstacles to being successful. Most of the farmers we have interviewed have formed collaborations with other farmers, worked with an independent agronomist, and communicated with research and extension professionals. Collaborations can’t be forced. It takes honesty and passion for achieving an end goal. These collaborations often foster deeper relationships. “It's fun. It seems like every day, we can talk about something new and exciting…..It’s made farming fun in my eyes.” - Tyler Zimmerman (Season 2: Episode 4) “Finding this information, seeing the yield, seeing the variability is what led to “boy, can we manage this?” And I have to say so far in my experience. Yes, you can.” - Anthony Thilmony (Season 1: Episode 3 and Episode 4) “We’d field a lot of questions together, and you know what he didn’t know I’d know and vice versa and it just seemed like we got a good working relationship that way” - Tim Becker (Season 2: Episode 1) “I know farmers that have the attitude of, I’m not going to share with my neighbor, but I feel I’d teach everybody that you know because our neighbor is not the guy who is going to take us out in this whole game. It’s going to be something bigger like mother nature or the banker.” - Mark Olson (Season 2: Episode 8) “The important thing is that those three circles overlap and there’s interaction among those three groups that is I think really powerful and finding these transformational sort of solutions that we need in agriculture.” - Mark Liebig (Season 2: Episode 13 and Episode 14) “What you need to do is find the passionate people and get them to leave “me” at the door and get “we.” And we start doing things together....it’s all about bringing interested people together and multiplying your effect.” - Brad Brummond (Season 2: Episode 12) Follow the link www.NDFieldCheck.com to participate in our next question and answer segment to share your questions and get them answered by the experts!
June 8, 2020
Measuring Soil Quality (Soil Health Dynamic Duo, Part 2)
We are back with Mark Liebig and Susan Samson-Liebig. In case you missed our last episode, they are two leading soil scientists of the USDA. Mark works as a soil scientist within the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Susan works as a Soil Quality Specialist in the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). In this episode we focus on metrics of success for soil health. First, Mark defines soil quality through the lens of research on soil management. “I think of it often in the context of various soil functions; the ability to cycle nutrients, the ability to be a habitat for your soil biology, the ability to be able to take up water and retain it and move it through the soil matrix. It’s all based on soil function.” - Mark Liebig In regard to soil health, Susan adds that she focuses on the inherent properties and attributes that soil has that will “lend itself to be able to provide those functions that we need.” Both acknowledge that the terms soil health and soil quality is at times viewed as a distinction without a difference and that the semantics of the terms are not significant. To test and characterize the quality of the soil you are limited by the amount of time and money you want to invest. You can use a shovel and observe the “qualitative attributes” including tactile feel, the color, and the smell. You can also invest in a hydraulic sampler and send off samples for physical, chemical and biological analysis. Mark’s team has developed an easy-to-use soil quality kit to help make some of those decisions. The kit has been designed to measure some major soil health factors including infiltration of water, aggregate stability, pH and electrical conductivity. “(With) every sampling decision you’ve got to address those trade offs. What information do you want to get and what resources do you have to bring towards addressing those questions? And then find some sort of appropriate approach somewhere in the middle.” - Mark Liebig Susan and Mark have benefited from each other’s careers through the skill sets they both bring to the table. Susan gets to hear about the new up and coming research and Mark gets to hear about what research is needed within the industry. Both can return to their agencies and share their findings to better prepare and direct their efforts. As Susan talks with producers, she is noticing some trends in what the general public wants to know. Her observation shows the importance of the soil health discussion. “Another emerging topic that's really starting to take off here is this whole linkage between soil health, plant health, animal health and human health and trying to understand those linkages.” - Susan Samson-Liebig This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Susan Samson-Liebig and Mark Liebig, both soil scientists that contribute to the industry in two different USDA agencies Learn the definition of soil quality and soil health Explore different testing methods to evaluate soil health in the field and what metrics are most significant to look for Hear about the advantages they have found in their careers by collaborating their efforts Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
June 1, 2020
Soil Health Dynamic Duo, Part One: Cover Crops
Mark Liebig and Susan Samson-Liebig are two leading soil scientists that work in two different agencies within the USDA. Also, they just happen to be spouses. Mark works as a soil scientist within the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Susan works as a Soil Quality Specialist in the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). ARS is “focused on solving problems for producers” using science based research. NRCS has a “mission to protect the soil and water and all of the natural resources on the land” with methods in compliance with the farm bill. While these two agencies have different objectives they provide support to each other. “Where our agencies do work pretty close together is on this transfer of the research and then getting it into the hands of people to use.” -Susan Samson-Liebig Mark has been investigating the use of cover crops for 15 years. A significant factor he has observed in his studies is the effect a timely precipitation can have on the biomass produced. Different seeding times and intercropping practices are currently under investigation to find the best protocols to offer to farmers in the area. While he is encouraged by local farmers adopting some of these practices, he admits that there are endless iterations in cover crop planting for farmers to choose from. Because of this, Mark created a chart to help farmers navigate the many options and decisions required with cover crops based on the current recommendations. “The chart is our effort to provide a cool tool for producers in helping them to make their decisions on what cover crops they could choose or what mixtures they’d want to put together.” - Mark Liebig The chart was inspired by the periodic table and illustrates every iteration they have developed at this time. As this chart has been shared it has been expanded. Producers outside of North Dakota have reached out and asked for versions involving their climate and crop options. “You start there with the chart and you’ll learn a little bit more and then as you graduate then you can go to these other tools.” -Mark Liebig As transplants from Nebraska, they acknowledge the significant impact the soil health movement has made in North Dakota. Mark comments that the reason for this is that “from the ground up, from the farmer level, there was just this inherent recognition that we have to protect these resources.” Susan agrees and adds that the people of North Dakota seem open and willing to try new practices and collaborate with researchers. “The solutions to problems are often better if you can get more input on how things can be solved.” -Mark Liebig This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Susan Samson-Liebig and Mark Liebig, both soil scientists that contribute to the industry in two different USDA agencies Mark developed a chart to help farmers better understand cover crop options and easily see the current recommendations offered by ARS Susan works at the NRCS and engages producers to help them conserve their resources Click here to see the Cover Crop Chart Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
May 25, 2020
Decades of Soil Health Collaboration
Brad Brummond joined the NDSU extension in 1982 and has been in his current position in Walsh County for 28 years. His body of work allowed him to be the first North Dakotan selected for the County Agricultural Agents Hall of Fame. Brad’s experience and knowledge are invaluable. He joins us today to share some of what he’s learned. Brad has made it his mission to not only get people involved in soil health practices but also to work together in doing so. “This can be done. This is very doable…..It’s fun. It’s exciting. It gets me up in the morning.” - Brad Brummond Brad’s career started in organic agriculture in the 1980’s. “Soil health was what we went after from a soil fertility standpoint in organic agriculture,” shares Brad. His own initiative that he has developed and used is called “Save the Five.” It operates under the assumption that there are at least 5 acres of unproductive farmland on most operations. Most often this is caused by sodicity or magnesium imbalances. The goal with “Save the Five” is to sample these areas, create a plan to regain the use of that land. “You can’t tell them. You have to show them. This is why our demonstration projects were so successful because they could go out and they could see it. We could put a shovel in the ground and we can show them the soil aggregates and the worms. What healthy soil looks like.” - Brad Brummond Brad found that one of the biggest barriers he needed to overcome was the concern for profitability with soil health practices. He was able to offer farmers interested in the program financial support in the form of money to “buy off the risk.” He wanted finances to not be the obstacle keeping farmers from proving these protocols. One thing he maintains and makes sure farmers understand before taking action is that soil health takes time to build. “The soils got to where they are over a long period of time and we’re not going to pull them out of it in one or two years….You have to be patient and you have to understand it didn’t get here overnight and it’s not leaving overnight.” - Brad Brummond Brad takes pride in the collaboration his team has been able to achieve. He has cultivated a level of trust within Walsh County that brings all kinds of viewpoints and opinions together for healthy discussion. Groups including NDSU, local producers, the Soil Conservation District and NRCS have come together to discuss different practices and possible outcomes. He encourages other counties to create the same collaborations. “This can be done ladies and gentleman. Our’s just happened. I think you could do it in a more deliberate manner.” - Brad Drummond This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Brad Brummond, NDSU Extension in Walsh County Learn what Walsh County has achieved with furthering the soil health discussion Explore the tips and tricks to creating collaborations across many organizations See the benefits of soil health practices on their operations Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
May 18, 2020
Soil Health and the City
Today we are joined by Sally Jacobson, Executive Director of the Red River Zoo, and Dr. Abbey Wick, Soil Health Extension Specialist. The unlikely collaboration between NDSU Extension and the Red River Zoo has led to an innovative outreach program telling the story of modern day agriculture. The Red River Zoo has had a longtime focus of “education through fun” with a focus on conservation and their zoo farm exhibit is no different. The zoo farm was due to be updated a few years ago with the focus being a “story that hasn’t been told” in modern agriculture. Enter Dr. Abbey Wick. A frequent visitor to the zoo, she saw this as an opportunity to help farmers with their “messaging to the public.” Sally welcomed her assistance to promote education and illustrate how farmers are “stewards of their land.” “From there it was just this really great partnership on what we could bring from the NDSU extension side and through connections that I have in agriculture through our commodity groups and through other industry people. And how it could really partner up with the conservation message of the zoo.” - Dr. Abbey Wick Precision agriculture, interactive farming equipment, drone capabilities and of course soil health are all on display for kids and adults alike to engage with and learn from. The “Agriculture Adventure Day” provides another opportunity for the public to get a hands on experience with agriculture including but not limited to a big worm bin and planting seeds. One of the highlights for Dr. Wick is allowing farmers to share their legacy with the public. “It just seemed like a great space to help farmers, not in their fields, but help them share their message about modern agriculture and sustainability and building soils and soil health.” - Dr. Abbey Wick This unlikely collaboration has sparked a conversation regarding outreach to the public by agriculture in the future. Sally recommends “looking at your language that you’re using and finding those common threads.” This brings the public in out of curiosity and leads to a fun, exciting and informative experience that everyone can enjoy. “It’s not about preaching to people…..but just to encourage people to explore and learn more and love the natural world. I think it’s critically important for us all as people.” - Sally Jacobson This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Sally Jacobson, Executive Director of the Red River Zoo Explore the unexpected collaboration between NDSU’s Extension and the Red River Zoo Learn effective and proven tips for how to communicate and spread awareness about agriculture with the public Visit Red River Zoo to see the Zoo Farm and share your story as part of the agriculture industry Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
May 11, 2020
A Soil Health Journey from Crops to Cattle
“I hope that we can just do so much more with an acre of land than just grow a crop on it.” -Mike Schaefer Mike Schaefer farms wheat, barley, corn and soybeans in New Rockford, North Dakota. His farm has been using soil friendly protocols for years and is now adding intermittent livestock grazing to his farm ground. Mike didn’t set out to follow the soil health movement. 10 years ago he had initially reduced his tillage out of a “shortage of manpower.” In 2016 a severe episode of wind erosion brought soil health and tillage efforts to the forefront. This “eye-opener” cemented his commitment to reducing tillage on his fields to hopefully prevent that from happening in the future. But a reduction in wind erosion has not been the only benefit to these new practices. “What I didn’t realize is how the water infiltration was actually really bad on our farm prior to no-till and just in three short years, that’s changed dramatically….we’ve really opened up the soil profile. We’ve got aggregate, we’ve got worms. Everything is coming alive and it’s faster than I thought it would.” - Mike Shaefer Two years ago, factors outside of Mike’s control once again presented Mike with an opportunity to try another technique on his farm, adding grazing livestock. His neighbor happened to be “short on pasture that year” and he allowed him to graze them on corn stocks that had been coverplanted. ”That seems to be the big X factor in soil health that everybody talks about is if you can get livestock out there, that is a huge benefit.” -Mike Schaefer The first year they had 120 steers on 120 acres. Mike plans on putting 150 head on the same 120 acres next year. He does admit that in the last 30 days “something out there changed” resulting in a reduced weight gain of the cattle. His presumption is that the “quality of what they were eating had dropped.” Next year they plan on top dressing the paddocks as the livestock are rotated around and supplementing their feed as needed. Mike is openly in a learning process to find the most effective way to run livestock on his fields and he is excited about next year's potential. This new technique is an attempt to “really change the biology of the soil” so as a bonus it also provides and supports another product, beef. “We see a lot of opportunity to make it even more profitable once the system gets tweaked a bit. I think it could be as good or better than growing a crop on it as far as cash flow and then you get all the benefits of it underground.” - Mike Schaefer This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Mike Schaefer Learn about Mike’s introduction into soil health practices and how he has gradually made changes on his operation Explore the many benefits Mike has realized by increasing his no-till efforts and by introducing intermittent grazing livestock to his fields. Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
May 4, 2020
Intercropping and Soil Health
Could intercropping be a viable option for large-scale row crop producers? Lana Shaw, Research Manager at the Southeast Research Farm in Saskatchewan, and Dr. Mike Ostlie, a Research Agronomist at NDSU, join us today to tell us what we need to know about intercropping. Lana shares that at the most basic level “intercropping would be intentionally growing more than one species at a time in an agricultural situation.” “The main type of intercropping that I’ve been concentrating on is growing two grain crops simultaneously, and then separating the grain after it's harvested. So planting them together and harvesting them together.” -Lana Shaw This method is especially helpful in areas with a short growing season. Another benefit is the possibility of a synergistic relationship which may lead to higher yields, reduced disease and reduced insect damage. Lana further explains that “a lot of our pests are very nicely adapted to monoculture production systems.” So by growing more than one type of crop simultaneously it changes the environment to one they may not be as well suited for. “The whole goal is to be able to yield more per acre total product than you would with either crop alone.” -Dr. Mike Ostlie Logistically speaking, “sometimes there’s some compromises that you make on seeding depth or seeding dates” but this does not prohibit success. Lana highlights that regardless of what combination of crops you choose to employ you need to make sure the grains are easily separated so you don’t end up with a product you can’t market. Another consideration is adequately controlling your volunteer crops to avoid more than the planned number of crops in your end-product. “It’s not that Mike and I are that good at selling a strange idea. The reason this is popular and the reason why we keep getting asked to talk about this is because the farmers seem to be achieving greater overall profitability.” -Lana Shaw This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Lana Shaw and Dr. Mike Ostlie as they explain intercropping and its many applications Explore the anecdotal and compelling evidence of the benefits of intercropping from inputs to yields Learn the unique obstacles that must be overcome Discover why Lana says never underestimate a farmer Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
April 27, 2020
Strip-Till and Cover Crops
Today we are joined by Mark Olson, a farmer in Southeast North Dakota, and Matt Olson, an agronomist with 20 years of experience with Centrol Ag Consulting. The two bring interesting insights into their 20-year long relationship they have cultivated between farmer and agronomist. Their relationship started over questions about soil fertility and soil testing. “I learn a lot from my growers because a lot of my growers are very innovative and want to try new things.” - Matt Olson Matt admits that when Mark first discussed the introduction of cover crops he thought it might be “short-lived Hocus Pocus.” After 7-10 years of using cover crops he now happily admits he has been impressed with their effect and the dramatic increase in yields. Between cover crops and strip tilling Mark and Matt are exploring new techniques on many fronts. Mark refers to it as a “mindset” change that requires commitment. “I think we’ve got to keep learning and experimenting. I think that is the next key to getting more biology stimulated. We’re constantly learning.” - Mark Olson So how do they know their changes are leading towards success? In a word: yield. Their yields are increasing every year and placing Mark as one of the top of producers in his area. Mark’s operation has also realized a decrease in herbicide needs with the use of cover crops. Mark shares that “it’s not where you farm. You’ve just got to have an open mind.” For those interested in changing their protocols, Mark recommends starting with “small projects.” He also suggests talking to neighbors, asking lots of questions and of course always being open to learning something new. “Yields are increasing, getting better soil health, protecting the land. It's going very well.” - Matt Olson This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Mark Olson and Matt Olson, a farmer and agronomist that have worked together to increase yields on Mark’s farm with some new techniques Explore the dynamics of their relationship that has grown over many years Learn what cover crops and strip tilling has provided Mark’s farm and why he actively promotes its use Hear what Mark and Matt have in store for the future of Mark’s farm Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
April 20, 2020
Cover Crop Seed Considerations
Today we go back to the beginning of any soil health program - or any crop for that matter - seed. We are joined by Steve Zwinger who is an agronomist at NDSU’s Carrington Research Extension Center and Jason Goltz the Regulatory Manager for the North Dakota State Seed Department. Together we will explore and discover the value of seed selection and how seed labels need to be evaluated prior to making any purchases. Steve shares that, unlike other crops, cover crop success is not tied to a high grain yield. The focus for cover crops is a quick rate of maturity resulting in putting on biomass and providing shade. Cover crops are used to augment control of erosion and weed growth. The quicker it can get to maturity the quicker it can perform its roll in the soil. “Rye has been determined to be one of the number one cover crops used by farmers across the country….So one of the things I felt strongly about was the fact that we needed some pedigree or known variety, identity preserved seed out there.” - Steve Zwinger Steve is an advocate for certified or registered seed. Added regulation provides a standard of “higher quality seed such as germination, seedling vigor, and purity in terms of weed seeds and other things.” Having an identified variety will lead to better variety selection for example farmers in the north need to prioritize winter survivability in making their selection. Any number of goals could be focused on by the farmer to tailor the effect of the cover crop to the field it is planted in. Steve’s seed breeding work revolves around blending where varieties are blended together. He takes advantage of rye’s ability to be “constantly changing itself and adapting itself to the environment.” While Steve focuses on creating and certifying the variety seed purchased, Jason shares the requirements and regulations in seed.. "If it's going to be planted, it's a seed in state and federal law. Both say that all seed has to be labeled." - Jason Goltz Just because a crop is not harvested as in the case of the cover crops, does not mean it does not need to be clearly labeled. These labels should identify the type of seed, the quality of the seed and the amount and type of weeds potentially present. Also of great importance, seed has to be labeled for the state it is sold in to comply with local state laws. The significance of this is to avoid transmission of a prohibited noxious weed that may not be illegal in a different state. Visit seedcontrol.org to find answers to all of your questions regarding seed regulation. “Variety evaluation and development is a very important aspect in agriculture because it's probably the easiest decision a farmer can make before he enters the field that will have the largest impact on their production.” - Steve Zwinger This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Steve Zwinger and Jason Goltz as they describe the legality and importance of seed variety selection Explore the techniques used in seed selection Hear what items on the label are of the greatest significance to your operation Discover why rye is a favorite cover crop to use across the country Learn what you need to know before traveling out of state to purchase or sell seed Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
April 13, 2020
The Value of Livestock to Soil Health
Today we answer a popular question about soil health:. How does the farmer integrate cover crops and livestock? Dr. Kevin Sedivec joins us today to shed some light on this topic and show what can be done. Kevin is the Extension Rangeland Management Specialist with North Dakota State University and the Director of the Central Grasslands Research and Extension Center near Streeter, North Dakota. By trade Kevin is a range ecologist who focuses on “livestock production, wildlife management and reclamation.” He remarks that the “fundamental basis of all of our grasslands is still soils” which has led him to be more involved in the soil health movement. “The cover crop mixes we see today are very similar to the wildlife food plot mixes that are available to the public to buy.” - Dr. Kevin Sedivec While ranchers are of course most concerned about the nutrition for their cattle, farmers may be concerned about any downsides the cattle might cause on their fields. One major concern faced by farmers is in regard to compaction. Kevin tells us that fortunately in the north, the expansion of water particles with freezing will reduce any significant compaction and maintain a healthy soil consistency as long as cattle are removed before the freeze/thaw cycle occurs over winter. Another common concern for farmers is contamination of local water sources by runoff originating from the cattle. Fortunately there are established systems that can be used to keep this to a minimum and create some distance between the cattle and fresh water sources. “There’s a positive value for livestock in this industry, in our environment and of course in our food systems. And I think in terms of soil health, it's a great alternative.” - Dr. Kevin Sedivec Research projects are being proposed to better identify and quantify the benefits of this collaboration as well as the best cover crop combination for the livestock and soil. This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Dr. Kevin Sedivec, a rangeland ecologist, who shares the benefits of grazing cover crops Explore the biggest obstacles faced by those considering a collaboration between livestock and crop farming Learn the benefits provided to the cattle, the soil and the local wildlife Hear the common concerns held by farmers and ranchers alike Discover what new research is being carried out to better evaluate this collaboration Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
April 6, 2020
Measuring the Impact of Sharing Information about Soil Health
Today we explore the impact of sharing information. Are shared ideas spread the way we think? Jean Haley is responsible for answering that question for soil health at North Dakota State. She is joined by soil health extension specialist Dr. Abbey Wick to discuss the plans and impact of providing information on soil health. While profit driven businesses can measure income as a metric for success, projects with education goals require a different approach for evaluation. “What does success mean?” That is where Jean comes in. “I help programs get better at what they’re doing and provide data to their funders. That lets funders know what their return on investment is.” - Jean Haley Program evaluation is prominent in education and health and human services. Jean has expanded it into soil health. Her data shows what projects and education sharing efforts have been effective and how so. Jean creates “needs assessments” which allows for identification of end game goals for the evaluation. She then reaches for whatever tools would best achieve that end whether that be a survey, observation of conversations and interactions at events, or creating focus groups. According to Jean, with the advent of “Cafe Talks,” Dr Wick created a boundary organization. This allowed for “a conversation in real time” that she was then able to moderate and grow. By identifying the strength of this event, Dr Wick was then able to show the significance with data to those funding the lunches. “Here we have something that’s going to outlast everybody and it’s going to continue feeding on itself... It’s bigger than the individual. It’s about everybody that’s part of the network. I think funding sources really like hearing that because it (doesn’t) just end with this project.” - Dr. Abbey Wick One significant recommendation Jean has offered to the soil sense movement is to offer longer breaks during workshops. As opposed to the presumed “dead time” this may allow it fostered conversation which was the ultimate goal of the workshop and therefore provided a greater benefit than perpetual lecture. “We were so focused on the talks and the presentations and the content that we totally forgot about the fact that people like to just visit….They’re coming here to meet other farmers. They’re coming here to get ideas and to get inspired and it’s like we just extinguished all of that with content.” Dr. Wick credits Jean with shifting the focus from disseminating as much information as possible to providing quality programming to create the desired networking effect. This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Jean Haley and learn about her role in evaluation of NDSU’s Soil Science Program Discover what program evaluation is and the tools they employ Hear about the impact Jean has had on the program from Dr Abbey Wick Explore the benefits this provides to the program and by extension those that fund it Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
March 30, 2020
Farmers Supporting Each Other to Build Healthier Soils
Tyler Zimmerman and Chris Walberg share their journey towards soil health building practices on their farms. Tyler began learning about no-till practices and their benefits about 5 years ago. Over that time he has found support and many resources as he continues learning and executing soil health practices. “When you turn the soil up, there’s roots and worms and biology just going on in there that when you walk to the field next to you that has been conventionally tilled and you don’t find any of that….its night and day difference just across the road from one field to the next.” - Tyler Zimmerman Tyler shared his findings and experiences with his childhood friend, neighbor, and fellow farmer, Chris Walberg. Chris began to slowly “dabble” in no-till after seeing Tyler’s success and quickly found success of his own. “You have a success that you can keep building on. I guess that was kind of a bit of an eye opener for us, that no-till can work.” Chris Walberg Tyler found that one of the big challenges to no-till is that it requires a higher “patience level.” You need to be able to wait for the soil to be “the right temperature and dry” where as a neighbor practicing tillage might not need to do the same. In order to further expand on their no-till practices Chris and Tyler collaborated to buy an air drill together. Both men have observed the soil health movement gain a lot of “momentum in the last few years” and are excited about what the future holds. While not everyone is radically changing their practices to build healthier soils, “they are certainly hearing about it and reading about it.” Between sharing information, equipment and ideas, Tyler and Chris are looking forward to continuing the expansion of their soil health building efforts. This collaboration and comradery has “made farming fun” for both and will likely continue to do so. This Week on Soil Sense: Meet farmers Tyler Zimmerman and Chris Walberg See how they were both introduced to no-till practices and the benefits they have observed Learn about their collaborative efforts and the benefits that has provided them Explore where their future efforts will lead them Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
March 23, 2020
Worms, Water, and Soil Health Research in Action
Today we focus on how agricultural research experiments actually happens in practice. Nate Derby and Rod Utter are both Research Specialists with North Dakota State University. Nate shares his experience with researching soil physics and the movement of water through the field. Rod Utter discusses his expertise from years of researching the life cycle and origin of earthworms. Both guests have done work with the SHARE (Soil Health and Agriculture Research Extension) Farm. While they mostly work on different projects, they bring a unique insight as those that are working with field scale ag research. While earthworms may not be considered an obvious top factor in farming production values, they provide far more benefit than composting and fish bait to the general public. Different species have adapted to different environments and different food sources making some more beneficial than others to farming especially in North Dakota. ”The earthworms themselves do a nice job. They create a lot of pore space for other organisms to go through, they turnover organic matter in the soil and on the surface they make nitrogen and phosphorus more available.” - Rod Utter Vast amounts of soil samples and water samples are collected to further evaluate the soil on the SHARE farm and how it is affected by different practices. While the main focus of Nate’s research has been on no-till practices, he has also been able to monitor salinity and the effects of adding tile drainage to limit the reach of the water table. “It just takes time. I think the longer you can monitor something like that, you’re going to continue to see changes.” - Nate Derby Nate and Rod are able to use each other’s findings to create a more comprehensive assessment of the soil health and the effects different practices have on it. They have verified that different salinity levels directly affect the worm populations and how quickly they can infiltrate a field and provide their benefit. “Related to worms on the SHARE Farm….they are moving in somewhat from the edges and that correlates pretty well with what we’ve been seeing with the salts on the surface.” -Nate Derby This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Nate Derby and Rod Utter, two scientists working on the SHARE Farm Learn the origin and benefits of earthworm populations in North Dakota See how different experiments are overlapping and creating a more cohesive understanding of soil health Explore the benefits of field-sized research and its more practical application as opposed to plot-sized Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
March 16, 2020
Soil Science 101 with Dr. Jay Goos
Dr. Jay Goos joins us from the department of soil science at North Dakota State University to share his approach to introducing soil science to his students and his experiences over the last four decades in the field. The overall curriculum of his course focuses on teaching the “main properties of soil” including acidity and alkalinity, concepts of wilting point, field capacity and “how the layers of the soil influences productivity.” He hopes that his students leave with an understanding of the soil health big picture. But beyond introducing and sharing the value of soil science with future generations and assisting agriculture with iron deficiencies in soybeans, Dr. Goos has also been a part of soil science for forty years. He has seen many trends, practices and concerns come and go and overall is happy to see all of the progress that has been made in regards to soil health. He does want to call attention to phosphorus availability in the future due to limited sources and the chronic “mining (of) our soils for nutrients” without replacing the overall gross deficit. “Everyone is thinking about nitrogen now because of the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico and nitrates in rivers and streams. But Phosphorus is going to be moving up on the people’s radar over the next few decades.” - Dr. Jay Goos He comments that unfortunately something that has not changed in the last 40 years is that “farmers are still bombarded with snake oil products.” Dr. Goos encourages students and farmers to understand soil variability and learn about the many factors that influence overall soil health. He recommends reaching beyond “gizmos” when learning about precision agriculture and focus more on what causes field variation and how we can best manage it. This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Dr. Jay Goos Hear about the introduction to soil science course he teaches at NDSU Discover his impact on iron deficiency chlorosis in soybeans Learn from the experiences he has had over the last 40 years in soil science and the issues he sees on the horizon Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
March 9, 2020
Soil Health Collaboration Between Ag Retail and Extension
In this episode we focus on the unlikely collaboration between extension and ag retail. Tim Becker joins us as a former county extension agent and long time farmer of Eddy County along with Jason Vollmer, a farmer and local agronomist for Allied Agronomy. Both have found real interest in coming together to promote soil health. Their partnership started as organically as could be imagined “over a cup of coffee.” A group of farmers would meet to discuss techniques and ask questions. These meetings “grew into a good relationship” resulting in an ideal collaboration. Both men acknowledge that making a sale is not the end goal so much as helping the farmer be as profitable as possible. “We found that we can fight each other for clientele and programming….or we can work together and make a total program better.” - Tim Becker Tim and Jason agree that “every farmer is a great steward of the land” and recognize as well as understand that “ground is their asset, their life, their lifeblood.” This compassion and understanding has allowed for the opportunity to campaign and illustrate the benefits for soil health programs. They combine research with available products to create the best individualized plan for each client they interact with. “Ag is always evolving and we have to have a futuristic look while being grounded in the present.” Jason Vollmer This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Tim Becker and Jason Vollmer Learn how their unlikely collaboration resulted in better information and learning for the farmers they helped Discover how they both leaned on each other’s strengths through discussion and education Listen to Tim and Jason discussing the biggest obstacles they see farmers facing in regards to soil health Explore how livestock may be the next adjunct to crop farming Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
March 2, 2020
[Bonus Episode] Decades of Building Soil Health with Joe Breker
Joe Breker has been farming for over 40 years pioneering soil health building practices in southeast North Dakota. With his skills and knowledge, Joe managed to successfully operate his farm during the dry ‘80s and wet ‘90s, as well as each decade’s poor farm economy. Joe joins me today to describe how his conservative farming practices have improved their farm’s soil health. He shares how his father was a sustainable farmer and what he did to build on what his father started. He also describes what no-till farming is, how it helps to restore damaged soil and explains the science behind management practices and how it affects soil health for decades. “Once you lose soil health, it's really difficult to get it back." - Joe Breker This Week on Soil Sense: The farming legacy Joe is a part of and how his father ran the farm. What no-till farming is and what made him utilize this method. How he started his journey in soil health. Maintaining commitment to soil health despite poor farming business conditions. How he processes their compost and the processes involved. Building soil health and how they nurse damaged soil back to health. Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
October 31, 2019
SHARE Farm Reflections and Insights
In this episode we explore the SHARE (Soil Health and Agriculture Research Extension) Farm Project. It is a field scale location used to display practices that the research is indicating to advance soil health. The program showcases rotations and practices that can be used in the local area to advance soil health. The North Dakota Corn Council and other commodity groups have funded the SHARE farm to take advantage of an opportunity to further promote soil health in North Dakota. The North Dakota Corn Council’s main objectives are to provide funding for “research, education, promotion and market development of corn in North Dakota” and the SHARE farm program fits that bill. The SHARE farm has “consistently been (their) number one project.” “The SHARE Farm Project is actually pretty unique. It’s a farmer driven project….It came about from Farmers wanting a place or field that they could drive by and see these soil health building practices at field scale for long-term within the rotations that they’re using. They wanted something that was theirs.” - Dr Abby Wick (NDSU Extension) “This was research that was actually being conveyed to our farmers and they were eating it up. They loved it…..It was just really great to see farmers talking to other farmers. Farmers acting as mentors to younger farmers and teaching them what they have learned over 20-30 years.” - Jean Henning (Executive Director of North Dakota Corn Council) “I think people are pretty impressed with what they see there….I think we’ve proven that we can no-till in heavy soils. I had one farmer say “You’re going to no-till out their right? So you can prove it doesn’t work in these soils.” I said, “yeah or prove that it does.” I think we proved that much” - Ken Johnson (Farmer with the first SHARE Farm) This Week on Soil Sense: Discover what a SHARE farm is and the soil health practices it puts on display Hear from Ken Johnson, the first farmer to participate in the SHARE farm program Learn about the North Dakota Corn Council and its purpose See the change in information sharing the SHARE farm has afforded the farmers of North Dakota Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
October 24, 2019
Managing Salts with Allie Slykerman
Today we hear from Allie Slykerman. Allie works as an independent crop consultant at Centrol Ag Consulting. One of the most significant issues faced by North Dakota farmers is salinity management. The primary crop struggles to grow in these areas resulting in opportunist weeds gaining a foothold in the field. Possible management practices include using salt tolerant plants for cover and assisting the soil in moving the water through the soil profile via tile. Depending on the location and salinity levels these options may not be available. The effort then becomes to try to limit the saline spots spread to reduce lost ground. Allie says one of the biggest concerns she gets approached about is weed resistance. She discusses the challenges faced by farmers and the progression of resistance she has observed. Roundup is no longer a “silver-bullet” for all things weeds. She shares different recommendations she has made in the last year to mitigate this growing threat. “Our chemistry is still working but I think in the future we need to start considering the what if’s….We really have to start being really careful and protecting these chemistries and start to think outside the box and using all the tools in the toolbox.” - Allie Slykerman “Figuring out how these guys tick is one of my favorite aspects of the job and getting to work with all different sorts of personalities is one of the most interesting things I think a crop consultant deals with on a day-to-day basis.” - Allie Slykerman This Week on Soil Sense: Allie Slykerman shares the most significant issue she sees with her clients Learn the different techniques available to battle salinity issues Allie shares her concern for weed herbicide tolerance Explore the relationship between a crop consultant and their client farmers Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
October 17, 2019
Integrating Cattle and Cover Crops with Luke Ressler
What can integrating livestock do for soil health? Luke Ressler joins us from Hillsboro, North Dakota where he farms with his father-in-law, Randy Lemm, and his wife Elli. Luke was raised on a farm in Cooperstown and worked for the NDSU Extension and Dr. Abbey Wick after completing his studies at NDSU. Luke was able to participate and host some of the Cafe Talks Abbey organized while working there. Luke shares the rotational grazing pattern he is using for his cattle. The biggest obstacle for them in using this technique is providing access to fresh water every day. The goal of this process is to gain the benefit of the cover crop for the soil and then convert that growth into nutrition for the cattle which will add manure back to the soil to further fortify it and reduce the time spent in the feedlot for the cattle. We check in with Luke to see his experiences between the original interview in June 2019 to today (October 2019). Spoiler: it’s been a tough year weather-wise. “My goal is to always try to go to as many field days and events that NDSU puts on as possible because you’re going to learn something new every time you go and meet someone new.” - Luke Ressler “Research is helping out a lot of guys who don’t know where to go, who don’t have good resources available to them. They can go online and get really good information especially from NDSU. I have nothing but good to say about it and I’m really excited to be involved more.” - Luke Ressler This Week on Soil Sense: Luke Ressler introduces us to incorporating cattle into your soil health practices Learn the benefits to the soil and cattle when combined as part of your land management Feel Luke’s excitement to be involved with upcoming research Explore Luke’s process to getting answers when questions arise with his new practices Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
October 10, 2019
Soil Physics and Soil Biology with Dr. Aaron Daigh
Explore the scientific principles forming the foundation of soil health. Dr. Aaron Daigh of North Dakota State University joins us to discuss the impact of movement and distribution of water, heat, and nutrients in the soil. Dr Daigh draws an analogy between pores in the soil and plumbing in a building. Through the natural processes of freezing, wetting, drying, and thawing pores are developed in the soil. These pores are crucial to nutrient and water retention. He shares the effect that tillage practices have on heat transfer and retention within the soil as well as to the pore size and distribution. Understanding these scientific principles can lead to more informed decisions on farming practices. Dr. Daigh shares the ongoing research in this field and where the focus is shifting. “It’s kind of like taking all the piping in your house or the building or in a chemical plant and rearranging it to the way that you want…..When you go in and you till a soil you are kind of homogenizing everything. You’re making all the pipes kind of very similar to each other at least in the depth that you’re tilling at.” - Dr. Aaron Daigh “When you go into a no-till or reduced till system…. you have a whole bunch of small pores and those pores are what can really hold onto water longer. They can hold onto nutrients longer and keep it available in a spot that the plant can use later on.” - Dr. Aaron Daigh This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Dr. Aaron Daigh and learn what it means to be a soil physicist Explore how tillage disrupts the natural pores in the soil and affects the movement of water and nutrients Dr. Daigh teaches us how the different sized pores are developed in the soil and the benefits they provide. Discover the up and coming research in the area of Soil Science Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
October 3, 2019
Building Soil Health on Your Toughest Field with Doug Toussaint
Doug Toussaint from Wahpeton, North Dakota discusses his shift toward soil health building practices. Doug shares what inspired him to make these changes and the decision to start with his most difficult field. Doug was able to slowly integrate these new techniques including inter-seeding and reduced tillage by using equipment that he already had on hand. He has noticed a significant difference in his fields with “how different they worked (and) how much easier they were to plant.” Doug shares that going to seminars, talking to other farmers and reaching out to consultants and the extension have all helped him find the answers and learn about new practices. He emphasizes the importance of networking with neighboring farmers and helping to foster the discussion about reduced tillage and cover crops. “Cover crops is not where to quit spending money….I’d rather have a cover crop that failed than a cover crop that I didn’t do.” -Doug Toussaint “There isn’t a recipe here. You’re going to put your own recipe together and how its going to work. You just have to be open-minded and look at different things and be willing to change immediately.” - Doug Toussaint This Week on Soil Sense: ● Hear from Doug Toussaint a Farmer in North Dakota ● Learn what inspired him to experiment with new farming techniques ● Meet the difficult field he started with and why he started there ● Explore some of the benefits Doug has experienced by adding cover crops to his rotation ● Doug shares what resources he reaches for to help answer his questions as they arise Connect with Soil Sense: ● Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
September 26, 2019
Salinity & Sodicity Issues with Naeem Kalwar of NDSU Extension
Naeem Kalwar is an extension Soil Health Specialist in the Langdon Research Extension Center. His expertise is shared today in facing sodicity and salinity issues in your soils. The term salinity refers to the potential for high salt levels in the soil which can decrease water absorption at the root-level resulting in drought stressed crops. Fortunately salinity does not affect soil structure allowing for the smooth movement of water and air through the soil despite the increased salt content. Good drainage and improved soil water infiltration can help manage salinity concerns. Sodicity, on the other hand, creates an issue that is not as easy to correct. With sodicity, a bond between the sodium molecules and the clay is formed. This directly affects the ability of the water to move through the soil as it will settle in dense layers. With an increase in sodicity you will also have a higher retention of salt resulting in increased salinity. Amendments like gypsum are required to increase the aggregation and good structure of the soil in order to compensate for the structural changes caused by sodicity. “Our groundwater has very high salt levels, plus sodium. And this sodium i’m talking about is not presented as salt. This sodium gets attracted to the negative charges of clay and hummus soil particles, and causes sodicity or the breakdown of soil aggregates...so we have two different problems: salt and sodicity.” - Naeem Kalwar This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Naeem Kalwar an extension Soil Health Specialist Explore the differences between soils in different regions Learn about the significance of salinity and sodicity in a soil’s health Discover how to identify and address these concerns Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
September 19, 2019
Improving Soil Health Over Generations with Lee Trautman
Lee Trautman joins us today. Lee farms corn and soybeans in Jamestown, North Dakota with his brother and father. Trautman Farms has been no till for over 20 years giving Lee a unique farming experience of very limited tillage. The EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program) introduced the idea of cover crops to Trautman Farms. The cover crops they initially chose were based on what seed they had available. Now Lee employs rye and has found that it “fits the bill” for their operation and assists with weed suppression and water consumption. Lee discusses the significant impact his practices have had on his farm and the conversations it has inspired with his neighbors and landlords. “That's what really gets you is when you get somebody who's not around every day or that sees it every day or maybe has never seen a no-till field. And they come out and they just can't stop saying good things about your soils. That really means a lot to me.” -Lee Trautman “Sometimes you can just go out in a field and and stick a shovel in the ground and just be like, yes, this is a good piece of ground. And I can do that in all of my fields. I can stick a shovel in the ground and there's always worms. There's good aggregation. There’s structure. There's lots of organic matter. It's just a beautiful piece of ground most of the time. And just knowing that we've helped create that and kind of keep it established that way so…..hopefully the next generation can enjoy it and keep improving it.” -Lee Trautman This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Lee Trautman, a farmer in Jamestown, North Dakota Hear how Trautman Farms manage their farm with three family members running different parts of the operation Explore what program introduced Trautman Farms to cover crops Learn how Lee manages the use of rye and is able to replenish his seed every year Discover what healthy soils means to Lee and how he can demonstrate their vitality on his farm Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
September 12, 2019
Cover Crops with Dr. Marisol Berti
Dr. Marisol Berti spearheads research in the use of cover crops as a professor in the Plant Sciences Department at North Dakota State University. Her most recent projects are focused on cover crops and their uses with crops outside of the more traditional corn and soybean rotations. Among her many successes in this field, her team has also developed a specific planter to better plant a cover crop and beat the oncoming winter. Dr. Berti shares that the hallmark of using cover crops is the benefit of “protecting the soil.” She admits there is a risk with cover crops as there is with any crop when the weather does not support the seed’s growth. The difference with cover crops is that they are not insured, which leads to a total economic loss if the crop is not successful. Dr. Berti discusses the use of Camelina as a broad leaf cover crop and the benefits to its use. As of yet it has not been broadly used but shows great potential. The biggest obstacle she faces is not in its use but in its marketability to create another source of income for the farmer. There is currently a lot of interest in it as a source for Omega-3 Fatty Acids for human consumption but no clear market in the United States. If a market develops the use of Camelina will not only be beneficial to soil health but also create additional income for the farmer which would help offset its risk. “If you go in a Corn-Soybean rotation with no cover crops the soil is almost like a parking lot. There is nothing. There is no life. You can dig and dig and there’s not one worm. I go to a farm that has had cover crops for 10 years and he puts his shovel no matter where and he gets a bunch of worms.” Dr. Marisol Berti This Week on Soil Sense: Explore the practice of adding cover crops Meet Dr. Berti, a cover crop expert and Professor at North Dakota State University Discover the use, benefit and obstacles in using Camelina as a cover crop Dr. Berti shares the common pitfalls faced by farmers trying to start the use of cover crops Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
September 5, 2019
Taking Off with Soil Health with Matt Nelson
Matt Nelson shares his experiences from his farm in Lakota, North Dakota where they produce small grains, wheat, barley, canola, soybeans, corn and edible beans. While Matt grew up on the farm, he spent the first 15-16 years of his career as a commercial pilot which has influenced his approach to farming. Matt shares the challenges and benefits that come with adopting reduced tillage practices. Another obstacle Matt faces are saline soils that have become more apparent with frequent rainfall. Matt shares his approach to implementing new techniques and what factors create the most viable options for his operation. “Ask your neighbors. Ask your friends. Ask the guys who have been farming for a long time. What's worked for you? What do you see? Are there certain times or certain practices you see that work better or have a negative effect on what you're doing?” Matt Nelson This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Matt Nelson Learn what drew him away from his job as an airline pilot towards being a full-time farmer Discover what are the biggest changes Matt has made to his farming operation Explore the effects of a multi-year wet period and what adjustments needed to be made Matt shares how he evaluates new techniques and what he looks for in choosing which to implement Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
August 29, 2019
Lessons from 20 Years of Crop Consulting with Dr. Lee Briese
Dr. Lee Briese is a Crop Consultant with Centrol Crop Consulting. He does not sell any products but rather solely focuses on helping farmers make the best decisions for their crops and soils. Dr. Briese checks every field weekly which creates a comprehensive understanding of the individual farmer’s goals, their assets and their obstacles to reaching those goals. He estimates he has covered over a million acres with his crop consulting resulting in a wealth of knowledge and experience. “There’s no one (size) fits all for anybody,” says Dr. Briese. We learn how many factors play into the recommendations he makes and the timing of the alternative techniques he suggests. “There has to be a distinct level of trust between (the farmers) and I as far as the information I’m giving them, that not only applies to them but is solid information.” Dr. Lee Briese. This Week on Soil Sense: Introduction to Dr Lee Briese, a crop consultant with Centrol Crop Consulting Dr Briese discusses his approach to introducing new techniques Learn how information is shared between farms Discover why farmers in North Dakota use a lower rate of herbicide application and what the consequences are in regards to herbicide resistance Listen to the many factors taken into account prior to making any recommendations Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
August 22, 2019
Challenges of Building Soil Health in Cool and Wet Climates with Sam Landman
Sam Landman is a fifth generation farmer who manages not only his family farm but also a SHARE (Soil Health and Agriculture Research Extension) Farm. He discusses how his techniques have evolved and how that has impacted his crop rotations and equipment choices. Challenging effective practices for better sustainability and soil health is an uphill battle but Sam is already seeing the benefits. “I think the long-term benefits will be there for sure. But you know we’re always up against short-term economics anytime you’re transitioning to a new practice.” Sam is perpetually researching and networking to gain as much knowledge as possible. He wants to make the most informed decisions he can. If someone is interested in trying some of these new practices, Sam recommends reaching out and asking questions. Dr. Abby Wick and the rest of the extension have been great resources for him. He also suggests experimenting with some smaller fields first to find the best fit for your operation. “I like seeing green out there. I like seeing living biology out there. When you start digging around in the ground, you start seeing the soil come alive because of the living root out there. It's just kind of an addiction. Once you start it and you start seeing the benefits you want to keep trying it and do more and more.” -Sam Landman This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Sam Landman and hear his story farming in North Dakota Discuss transitioning to reduced tillage practices Explore new soil handling techniques and the effect that has had on Sam’s farm Learn about the challenges faced by those changing farming protocols Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
August 15, 2019
Precision Ag for Healthier Soils with Anthony Thilmony and Dr. Dave Franzen
This is the second installment of a two part interview with Dr. Dave Franzen, a soil scientist at North Dakota State University, and Anthony Thilmony, a fourth generation farmer in the Valley City, North Dakota area. In this segment we will be focusing on the precision of soil health. We explore how to identify your individual soil needs and how to effectively and efficiently meet those demands. “The Zone Sampling Concept is the number one site specific nutrient management strategy in the state. I wish more people would do it .” -Dr. Dave Franzen “I had a goal. I didn’t go from here to there. I went five steps in between.” - Anthony Thilmony This Week on Soil Sense: Learn about the development of zone sampling Discover the benefits and philosophy behind variable rate fertilization application Converting to various precision ag techniques requires a financial and time commitment What factors influence the decision to try a new technique or add new technology Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
August 8, 2019
Soil Fertility with Dr. Dave Franzen and Anthony Thilmony
Join us for the first installment of a two-part interview with Dr. Dave Franzen, a Soil Scientist at North Dakota State University in Extension, and Anthony Thilmony, a fourth generation farmer in the Valley City, North Dakota area. These two have collaborated for many years through discussion and trials. Today we explore soil fertility and the effect of a no-till strategy. We learn about some of the benefits including a decreased nitrogen need and increased microorganism activity to name two. “In order to get somebody to change the way they’re doing things you either have to have an economic tag or an emotional tag.” -Dr. Dave Franzen “My goal is when I quit farming everything is going to be in better shape than I got it and that's what drives me with the no-till.” - Anthony Thilmony This Week on Soil Sense: Discover how Dr Franzen and Anthony began to collaborate Learn about soil loss in North Dakota over the last 100 years Hear about the benefits of performing research on commercial farms What the advantages are of having a no-till field Who the “Beach Boys’ of North Dakota are and what they have accomplished Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
August 1, 2019
Soil Health Systems on the Farm
Ride along with fourth generation farmer Tony Wagner in Jamestown, South Dakota. Farming has been a lifelong passion for Tony. He took on his first field in the eighth grade and after pursuing college returned to the area to help manage his family’s operation. He has experimented with different cover crops for different fields in order to better the soil he has access to. He joins us today to share his excitement for implementing new techniques and the drastic effect it has had on the quality of his soil. “You have one shot a year to do this and then you have to wait the whole entire year for it to come around. And that's kind of what honestly really keeps me interested in it…..There's just so many things to do from preparation for equipment in the winter time to all of a sudden you're planting and then from planting you're going on to spraying and then from spraying it starts leading into harvest and next thing you know, the leaves are falling off the tree….. I like working with fields and soil and just anything that I could do to improve our farm.” - Tony Wagner This Week on Soil Sense: Hear about the heritage associated with the Wagner Farm Learn about the new techniques Tony has implemented The effects rotating cover crops have had on the quality of the soil The collaboration of farmers and extension agents to learn and improve Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
August 1, 2019
Setting the Stage for Soil Health in North Dakota
Dr. Abbey Wick is an Extension Soil Health Specialist at North Dakota State University. She joins us to share what her role is in promoting soil health in North Dakota. Dr. Wick works primarily with farmers but also coordinates county extension agents and other educators to share what new research indicates with regards to enriching the health of the soil. She encourages networking between all factions of agriculture to best help the farmer in their pursuit of a high quality yield. Her Cafe Talks have become a welcomed forum for farmers to receive, engage with and implement new practices that work best for their individual needs. “Every year is different...that makes it a lifelong pursuit, makes it an awareness that you have to have of your system.” - Dr. Abbey Wick This Week on Soil Sense: How North Dakota coordinates efforts to disseminate information What soil health means to her as a soil scientist What are the obstacles she must overcome to get new ideas and research accepted Why Soil Health does not lend itself to a “one size fits all” prescription service What happens when she doesn’t know the answer to a farmer’s questions. What is a S.H.A.R.E. Farm Connect with Dr. Abbey Wick: Email Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
July 29, 2019