By Tim Hammerich and Abbey Wick, Ph.D.
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.
Field Check Season Finale: No Such Thing as a One-Size-Fits-All
In this episode we revisit some highlights of the most useful and important information shared through the first fourteen Field Check segments. You’re going to hear from experts like Dr. Abbey Wick, Dr. Lee Briese, Mark Huso, Jason Hanson, and Angie Johnson. These highlights cover topics ranging from cover crops, moisture management, crop rotation, salinity, farm safety and more. The overall message throughout is that there is no one right way to build healthier soils. It’s all about finding out what each individual field needs, and having the tools and expertise to execute on that. “Tons of ways to get cover crops in the system, whether you have the equipment to broadcast and that seems like the best fit for you time wise and logistics wise. Or if you have the time to put somebody into a tractor with a drill and seed the cover crop after harvest… I think they're gonna improve the soil in many ways. Not only trafficability at harvest, but managing moisture at harvest and also again in the springtime at planting.” - Dr. Abbey Wick Crop consultant Lee Briese says it’s all about assessing each individual field and designing the right system on a field-by-field basis. “You make sure you’ve got the right tool for what you’re doing.” It’s this field by field approach that has led Mark Huso down the road of using the term “field health” to reference not just soil health. He chooses to focus on overall long term productivity of a particular field. “A healthy field raises a good crop and there’s different ways to get there.” Mark and his farmer customers are finding success in diversifying crop rotations to manage issues such as saline areas. Jason Hanson also shares some of his thoughts on approaching the issue of salinity and consulting with peers to tackle similar obstacles. You're gonna have to use the weapons you have in your arsenal, and that is going to be if you can get any surface drainage, any internal tiling done…. No one likes to split up fields and do that type of thing. I think more people are listening to that because other people are doing it. The best peers out there are other consultants, other farmers in particular that are actually doing these things. They just said, “This isn't working. We gotta try something else.” And that's what you do. - Jason Hanson 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.
October 25, 2022
Field Check: Systems Thinking
In this episode you’ll hear from a number of farmers and consultants about their systems-based approach to farming and soil health. Starting with Ontario farmers Woody Van Arkle who recalls the first time he heard Dr. Lee Briese speak to a group of farmers. His practical approach is the result of looking at a field as a system. Lee, who is a crop consultant for Centrol Ag Consulting, stresses this systems-based thinking approach to farming and soil health. “What are you gonna do? Where's your next crop? Where are you going? How's this gonna be? So I can't just stand in front of a room of 300 people and say, there you go. You start here and then you go here and you go here and you go here. You simply can't do that…. There is no prescription, but you're trying to teach people to be an ecosystem's manager. To do that, you have to be observing what's happening.” - Dr. Lee Briese North Dakota farmer Mark Olson found out that strip tillage was the right approach for his system. He’s seen the results in both his soil and his yields, and he even says the approach saved his crop a couple of years ago. He tells other farmers to “keep learning, never quit and keep trying.” Mark’s crop consultant, Matt Olson (no relation), said he had a few concerns when Mark wanted to dive headfirst into cover crops and strip tillage but said the results have been undeniable. “All of a sudden we started going from 40 bushel soybeans to 60 bushel soybeans by implementing strip till and cover crops. Also seeing that we probably weren't introducing any new weeds. We were actually getting better weed control by having the ground covered which is huge for us in our water hemp neck of the woods and kosha neck of the woods and stuff like that.” - Matt Olson 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.
October 19, 2022
Field Check: Residue Management
In this episode we talk about a problem that many farmers run into on their soil health journeys: residue management. But rather than just focus on one field, we’ve collected a handful of different perspectives and experiences for you. You’ll hear from two farmers and two researchers about this challenge and how they’re finding ways to maximize the benefits of residue while managing the challenges that can come with it. Farmer Sam Landman describes the problems that residue has caused on his farm in the past, and how he’s tried to address them. He is in the process of trying different seeding equipment and timing to better manage his residue issue. “We're wrestling with high moisture in our soils, being able to get into it, and then also high residue. We have hair pinning problems with our no-till equipment, like our single disc drills and disc planters and stuff. If the residue isn't quite dry or if it's too thick it'll hair pin and then the seed won't have any soil contact and it won't come up…. so we're having residue management challenges and moisture challenges and that's the biggest thing.” - Sam Landman Soil Scientist Dr. Caley Gasch addressed this challenge at a previous DIRT workshop. Caley has since moved from NDSU up to Alaska, but she is included in this episode to help explain how a more biologically active soil can eventually help reduce some of these residue issues. Caley’s colleague Dr. Aaron Daigh, who is now at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln speaks to the challenge of getting soil with residue to heat up in the spring. He says shallow vertical tillage might be a good option for many farmers. “You kind of have to get a little creative by incorporating some cover crops to change those carbon-nitrogen ratios so that that residue starts to decompose. Or maybe you try strip till as sort of your transition tool to migrate into a reduced till system. But as that soil begins to recover, as those microbes and fungi and, and earthworms and insects return to that soil and boost their numbers in response to the lack of disturbance, they're gonna take care of that residue over time.” - Dr. Caley Gasch 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.
October 11, 2022
Field Check: Barley and Soil Health
In this episode we talk about the challenge of getting cover crops implemented in a system, and highlight how barley can be a helpful crop in overcoming some of these challenges. You’re going to hear from two guests today: Dr. Dave Franzen, soil scientist with NDSU Extension, and Jason Hanson, crop consultant and owner of Rock & Roll Agronomy. Dr. Franzen shares about the challenges of getting cover crops established in a corn/soybean rotation in North Dakota. “If you just look at the corn and soybean rotation, the opportunity to grow some kind of a cover crop is pretty low in this region. But with barley, you're taking it off early in the season. You often have two months time for you to grow a cover crop. And it's not unusual to grow a ton of dry matter with rye or oats and or radish or just leaving the barley as a volunteer and using that as the grass, which is to me, the cheapest thing to do. So that's a big win.” - Dr. Dave Franzen Unfortunately, every year we see soil from farmer’s fields blowing away. Dr. Franzen has been studying the impacts of barley added into these rotations, and says he can confidently answer the question on whether or not it can help the soil health. Jason echoes this solution and introduces us to one of his farmers’ fields of barley and how they’re approaching their management and soil health. Jason says that going no till is definitely an option for some of his farmers, but others don’t want to go down that road. He points out that even for those who have to work the field, there are options for minimizing disturbance. “It's all part of a system that you gotta sit and look back and look at your rotation, your farmer, his equipment, how the harvest is gonna go. I guess that's the fun part and the challenge. It's not easy…. It's like if we do this, we have to think ahead of time as to what we want to do.” - Jason Hanson 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.
October 03, 2022
Field Check: Crop Rotation with Mark Huso
In this episode we are back with Mark Huso of Huso Crop Consulting based in Lakota, North Dakota. Mark shares about the value he has found in diversifying crop rotations. Over the years in working with several different farmers, Mark has seen the value both agronomically and economically in adding crops to the rotation, as long as they contribute to what he calls field health: which combines soil health and productivity. It can be difficult, he admits, for some farmers to initially get excited about the idea of considering new crops for the rotation. “We've always had the option. It feels like we're choosing simplicity over crop rotation…So don't fix what's not broken. However, as the guys have included a third crop, a fourth crop, a fifth crop, a sixth crop, a seventh crop. We have two farms that have seven crops on their farms because they're seeing a benefit to adding different crops in the rotation.” - Mark Huso Mark has seen firsthand how this diversification can improve field health, water utilization, weed suppression, operational efficiencies, and even help to manage salinity. While barley is known for being a great crop for saline areas, Mark says changing things up to include not only barley but also other crops, can really help. “It's taking away the saline areas, you know the corn grew past the soybean ground. The sunflowers are growing past where the corn stocks were. So it's managing the salinity as we're seeing that ground improve. Now, if we had just stayed barley soybeans, barley soybeans, barley soybeans. It would be the same or get worse, but because we changed rotations and the roots in the soil are changing, we're utilizing more water. We're managing salinity that way by simply changing the crop.” - Mark Huso We often talk about soil health on this show, but talking about field health is a very intentional distinction in the way that Mark looks at things. Once a farmer heads down this road, just like anything else, it’s not always going to be smooth sailing. Mark says the overall results have been positive, but sometimes logistics can become a challenge. “A healthy field is a field that raises a great crop. And so that is based on drainage, it's based on crop rotation and it's based on the field being weed free, a clean field. And so sometimes my no-till fields are some of the dirtier fields, because they're tougher to manage. But after a couple years they're the cleanest fields because they've been managed the right way. And so I'm trying to change my soil health more to field health.” - Mark Huso 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.
September 28, 2022
Field Check: Practical Approaches to Soil Health with Mark Huso
In this episode we are joined by Mark Huso of Huso Crop Consulting based in Lakota, North Dakota. After working in ag retail, Mark decided to start his own company over a decade ago doing independent crop consulting. This year has been especially challenging for Mark’s producers. He was really happy with the way things were looking with cattails and with the fields in general last fall, but 2022 snow and rains really have made things difficult. He shares about some of the unique challenges his farmers have experienced, how they have approached prevent plant acres, and how he wishes more people would look at tillage. “We had a lot of fall tillage done, fields were in really nice shape. We were gonna get a lot of acres back. And then towards the end of fall right before freeze up, we had a fair amount of rain. Then we had a lot of snow and then we had a lot of rain coming into March, April and into May. And so, very challenging, very late start, awfully wet….So what we were hoping was going to be a tremendous 2022 in terms of acres, production and efficiency did not happen.” - Mark Huso In difficult times like this in North Dakota, we end up with a lot of prevent plant acres. Initial considerations involve weed management, cover crop selections and residue management followed by what crop will they pursue in 2023. And this is an important consideration for cover crops in general. Before deciding what to plant it’s important to make sure it’s compatible with whatever you’re hoping to plant into that ground the following year. “I would try to let that (cover) crop go as long as you can. The benefits of cover crop and radish and turnip is letting them grow in the soil and get a nice established root system. So if we do get a lot of rain again, this fall and winter, it has somewhere to go...When we put a soil probe in a prevent plant field that has a full season radish, turnip and rye mix. I mean, there is no compaction. Those roots are doing what they're supposed to do, and they're providing a nice root structure for that soil, allowing for water to drain through that. We can smell it. We can feel it. You can see it. There's something real to those cover crops being in the soil.” - Mark Huso Over the years, Mark has seen the pros and cons of a variety of farming practices. His overall advice to farmers is to experiment with what works best for your particular operation and to use tools such as tillage in a way that's as needed rather than applied generally across the farm. “Not jumping in with both feet. That has hurt more than it's helped. I mean I'm all for trying new things. My brother Scott would say, “You can't swim if you don't dive in.” And sure, that's right for a lot of applications, but you know, this year for example, to be honest…the straight up no-till was some of our most troublesome fields….And so you don't need your great-grandfather's tillage. You need your type of tillage for 2022…I'm calling it tillage by assignment.” - Mark Huso 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.
September 19, 2022
Field Check: Vetting Biological Inputs
Field testing new products is an important and sometimes overlooked role that agronomists and crop consultants can play. Jason Hanson joins us again on the program to talk about the types of products he has been testing, what has worked and what hasn’t worked for him in the past. He shares how these trials help to lower risk for farmers on products that even if great, might not be great for their area. You may remember, Jason is a crop consultant and the owner of Rock and Roll Agronomy based in Webster, North Dakota. “Consultants are inherently very conservative when it comes to spending their clients money and trying to find things that will benefit them, whether that is post emerge spraying, fertility, or trying to find information on bio stimulants. All these things that are approaching the market. I'm gonna look at some products they are saying can alleviate or work on salinity…Now, I don't know how it's going to do what it does, but I want to see what is out there because sometimes you gotta step out of your comfort zone and give anything the benefit of the doubt.” - Jason Hanson Just like farmers only get one opportunity a year to make a crop, researchers and agronomists only get one shot to get good data on these emerging products. Jason says ultimately, it’s all about trying to lower the risk for farmers, and save them money. He says at the moment he’s looking at a few different biological products, including biostimulants. “I'm really interested in some of the things they have to say and what they're doing but I have to validate it with my customers to see that it's there as well. So to go from putting on N P K to reducing it and putting on something else… I'd still like to try it, because a lot of times companies will come out with this is the national average, and then you can find parts of the country, whether that's fertility, whether that's fungicide, where it's a lot higher.” - Jason Hanson In the past Jason has found success with soybean innoculants. Biofungicides and insecticides have not been proven more beneficial than conventional methods for Jason and his clients. At the core of his recommendations is research, data and results in his area. While he sees biostimulants as the future of agriculture he hasn’t seen sufficient data to be able to know when and how to confidently recommend their use at this time. 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.
September 12, 2022
Field Check: Perennial Cover Crops and Baling
In this episode we talk about full season and perennial cover crops. These are great options in not only prevent plant situations, but also trying to manage the health of saline soils. As we’ve done on several episodes of this season of Field Check, we will also highlight the agronomic, logistical, and safety considerations when growing these types of cover crops. Assistant professor and soil health extension specialist Dr. Abbey Wick, said she has been expecting a lot of prevented planting acres this year. “I think farmers are working as hard as they can as quickly as they can to get crops in the field, but some of those areas, or some of those fields are just gonna be ones that they're not gonna get to. And so in that case, we really wanna encourage a full season cover crop to manage that field just like you would with a cash crop.” - Dr. Abbey Wick Abbey recommends looking at the NDSU Soil Health Cover Crop Booklet and the Grazing Cover Crop Booklet for more insight and information into this process. Dr. Kevin Sedivec, who as many of you know is a professor of range science at NDSU, says to prioritize soil health first when selecting full season cover crops. He also recommends considering whether you’ll be leaving it idle, grazing it or haying it. “We should always think of soil health first. If I can create a food base to enhance the soils, I can then tweak that to make it good for livestock.” - Dr. Kevin Sedivec Kevin highlights that if bailing is selected you need to understand that you are removing carbon from your ecosystem. He says there is a balance to be considered and achieved with regard to how much carbon you are adding with manure from livestock and how much you are removing with bailing. If you do decide to bail your cover crops, there are some really important safety considerations to also keep in mind. NDSU extension farm and ranch safety coordinator. Angie Johnson says it's especially important to remember safe practices when operating baling equipment. “There are so many moving parts, whether you've got a belt baler, a chain baler, or a roller baler. With all of those rotating parts, you have extra areas where we call pinch points or rat points, so areas where you can get your fingers or limbs in some pretty serious danger. And so focus on reading that operator's manual on how you perform maintenance.” - Angie Johnson 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.
September 02, 2022
Field Check: Soil Health and Moisture Management with Dr. Lee Briese
In this episode we explore the question of how to improve soil health in fields that are just too wet. From drainage tile to cover crops, Dr. Lee Briese visits some of the strategies and tactics he uses with the farmers he works with. Lee is a Crop Consultant covering Stutsman and Barnes Counties in North Dakota for Centrol Ag Consulting. He has been scouting fields and providing recommendations for farmers in North Dakota for over 20 years. He says there hasn’t been a year he would classify as ‘normal’ in quite a while, and that this year has been especially challenging. “We went from this field's going to be corn, this field's going to be wheat, this field's going to be soybeans to what field is dry enough to plant today. So a lot of those plans just went out the window. And so we're at the point now once we get them planted, then we figure out how we can deal with those weeds.” - Dr. Lee Briese And especially in years like this, there are fields or areas of fields that are just always wet, and present their own set of problems like trafficability issues, weed pressure and salinity. Lee relies on his creativity and the tools in his toolbox to address these types of growing conditions. “It's the same kind of principles, but it's a different thought process and it's a different prescription…Really what we're trying to do here now is use moisture out of sync of our cash crops… Instead of using tillage, because the tillage uses moisture through evaporation, but that evaporation increases salinity making the salts worse and we already have salt problems…We're using plants for the roots to go to 6, 8, 12, 14 inches deep to move the water from below instead of evaporating off the surface.” - Dr. Lee Briese Lee mentioned their using crops like cereal rye to address these saline spots. This technique then distributes the salt throughout the soil profile reducing the risk of excess salinity while still capturing some of the moisture. Cereal rye can also serve as a “bridge to get across to move through that field” when trafficability becomes a concern. Lee reminds growers that you really need to assess the needs of each individual field first and then have the necessary tools to apply whatever that field needs. “There's so many influencing factors that when you're trying to put together this plan this is why you have to look at the field. What are you trying to do? What can you work into your system? What is not gonna work?... It's about looking at your field, assessing each individual field with what are the challenges or problems that you're facing, and then designing a system that addresses those challenges.” - Dr. Lee Briese 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, 2022
Field Check: Building a Soil Health Legacy
In this episode we explore one of the most wonderful and unique aspects of farming, the ability to leave a real tangible legacy for your children. The sentiment and realization of that legacy is predicated on the quality of soil you pass along to them. NDSU Soil Health Specialist Dr. Abbey Wick and farmer Kerry Swindler about the importance of protecting the soil for this legacy. NDSU Extension Farm & Ranch Safety Coordinator Angie Johnson goes onto share about how to safely involve your children on the farm. “Farmers in general, they're not farming for themselves. They’re farming for the next generation. They're thinking of the future of their farms, how they're going to set up the next generation for the best possible situation financially, but then also in their resources…..So if we’re really thinking about farm legacy, protecting that soil is your number one priority.” - Dr. Abbey Wick Mott, North Dakota farmer Kerry Swindler has experienced this firsthand. He remembers how much topsoil they lost from tillage, and he actually remembers the day over 40 years ago he and his father decided to make a change to preserve their topsoil and promote soil health on their operation. “I stopped my combine and I went over and I got on my dad's combine and I said, “Dad, we gotta do something here or there's not gonna be any land left for me to farm, much less my kids.” And he could see it….And it was a shock in a lot of ways, but it didn't take long to start seeing some of the benefits.” - Kerry Swindler Farming is unique in that it is multi-generational, and it’s certainly a joy to watch the next generation get interested in agriculture. But tragic farm accidents involving children are all-too-common, and NDSU Extension Farm & Ranch Safety Coordinator Angie Johnson says it’s important to remember that farms are job sites. “It's the only work site where children are ever allowed. You don't bring your kids to a construction zone or you don't take them on to work with you in most cases. And so it's very unique and we need to realize that at some point we need to be mindful and …..I think it is so crucial that we match a child's ability with a task on the farm.” - Angie Johnson Angie recommends creating an open dialogue with kids where they can communicate questions and concerns while working on the farm. Incorporating them into the operation is not only teaching them what tasks are appropriate and how to perform them safely but also having open lines of communication so they can voice their concerns and stay safe. 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 02, 2022
Field Check: Managing Saline Soils with Jason Hanson
In this episode crop consultant Jason Hanson discusses a soil-related issue many farmers have to deal with, salinity. Jason owns Rock and Roll Agronomy based in Webster, North Dakota. He said while salinity is a constant issue in many of the fields in his area, it’s especially concerning this year after a wet spring. Those wet conditions paired with high commodity prices can make it tempting to plant ground into cash crops when it might not be the best approach. He shares the story of one field that even after years of a salt tolerant grass, the saline spots still weren’t ready to go back into corn or soybeans. “Some of this ground, the best thing for it is to just square it off, get it into a grass that you can hold habitat. You can hay it. You're not pouring money into it. And that's its use because it's not an economic drain and you're gonna get some of the benefits you don't have.” - Jason Hanson Obviously every farmer wants to plant as much of a field as possible into crops that will generate the most revenue, but Jason says you have to look at both profitability and long term viability of the land. He is encouraging farmers to stick with these salt-tolerant grasses to prevent the salinity problems from getting worse. “Barley is the thing I’m gonna tackle it with because people have some barley left over in bins and that's what we're gonna do to try to mitigate it. Because it's going to want to spread out. We got our water tables high. This thing's gonna get worse before it gets better.” - Jason Hanson Some farmers look to tiling fields to help with drainage in situations like this, but Jason says even with tile, salinity problems can persist, especially when they’re coupled with sodicity problems. Jason recommends addressing any salinity issues early to prevent them from spreading. Jason says there are some crops that will handle salinity better than others. “Even when you tile in some of these scenarios, the worst case is it's gonna take a long time. And I think people have to realize that some of this stuff, if it's mild, low key, you can manage it. That's still probably 5, 6, 7 year type of deal to get it back to better than it was. It probably isn't going to be the same as some of your other ground that you have…We can try our best but it's a slow process.” - Jason Hanson 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 21, 2022
Field Check: Cover Crops and Farm Implement Safety
In this episode we “cover” planting cover crops including some of the ways to get cover crops planted and established. We also discuss some really important and often overlooked safety considerations to think about before hooking up a seed drill or any other implement. A common farm activity such as hooking up an implement often can be among the most dangerous. So we want to provide a refresher on the safety of hooking up any implement on the farm. NDSU Extension Farm & Ranch Safety Coordinator Angie Johnson says it’s all too easy to forget how risky working with moving machinery can be, especially with multiple people around who may not always be on the same page. “You need to have a plan in place, and it's really important, especially if you're working with your employee or your son or daughter, or even your spouse, who's helping you hook up this piece of machinery. We need to be open and clear with our communication. Where is it safe for you to stand? When is it safe for you to drop that hitch pin?...When we're working with growers, we really emphasize using the 11 universal hand signals to help operators be able to back up farm equipment, because you can't always hear the other person.” - Angie Johnson There are resources for these safety measures available on the NDSU Extension website. They have both posters and window clings to serve as great training tools and reminders of these universal hand signals for farmers and their employees. Dr. Abbey Wick continues our discussion by sharing a few things to keep in mind as you start this part of your soil health journey. “With the backing up and using a drill, that's probably your best way to get a cover crop established because you're getting really good seed to soil contact. So as long as you hook it up the proper way you could get that cover crop seed out there…..lots of ways to get them in the system.” - Dr. Abbey Wick Farmer Sam Landman discusses the SHARE Farm which he runs in collaboration with NDSU Extension. SHARE stands for Soil Health and Agriculture Research Extension (SHARE) Farm, and it’s designed for field-scale, long-term, farmer-driven research into soil health building practices. Between his work on the SHARE farm and on his own farm, Sam says once you start to see the benefits from these practices like cover crops, you only want to do more of it. 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, 2022
Field Check: Every Field is Different with Dr. Lee Briese
Today, we single out one field in particular to see how a crop consultant utilizes soil health principles and practices to improve both profitability and viability over time. Dr. Lee Briese a Crop Consultant covering Stutsman and Barnes Counties for Centrol Ag Consulting. He has been scouting fields and providing recommendations for farmers in North Dakota for over 20 years, and received his Doctor of Plant Health from the University of Nebraska - Lincoln. Lee was nice enough to provide an example of one field that he and the farmer decided to take a different approach with. "So that's really where we started. We just kind of looked at what we were working with and said 'ok, planting corn and soybean that needs a lot of moisture midsummer is not working'. So what can we do to use the attributes of that field to our advantage?" - Dr. Lee Briese "I just really think that when somebody is looking at this soil health thing, it's not about 'I'm gonna go no-till or I'm gonna plant cover crops or I'm gonna do this particular practice'. It's about looking at your field, assessing each individual field with what are the challenges or problems that you're facing, and then designing a system that addresses those challenges." - Dr. Lee Briese Briese discusses how he and his farmer client approached managing a field that was drying up midsummer. He shares how they approached diversifying the rotation on that crop, and what happened when they tried soybeans again years later. 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 05, 2022
Field Check: Field Trafficability and Equipment Safety
In this episode, we explore soil management practices that will improve trafficability over time. North Dakota State University Soil Health Extension Specialist Dr. Abbey Wick joins us to discuss that as well as a specific example from Wahpeton, North Dakota farmer Doug Toussaint. We’ll also discuss safety considerations to properly handle equipment that does end up getting stuck. NDSU Extension Farm & Ranch Safety Coordinator Angie Johnson says this combination of a high stress environment, heavy equipment, and the urge to get everything done in small windows can create a hazardous situation for farmers. “It's really being aware of your situation, slowing down and really thinking through your plan…now more than ever, this type of information is so crucial to get out because not a lot of people know that there's a science (to pulling out stuck equipment). There is a true, hard science that helps people understand how to actually get yourself pulled out in those types of situations. ” - Angie Johnson Getting stuck is almost an inevitability in a lot of farming areas, but it’s often these situations that we’ve been in several times before that lead to not fully recognizing the dangers involved. Dr. Abbey Wick has worked with numerous farmers that have trafficability as one of their soil health goals, and she says in many cases, they’ve seen really favorable results. “I see better traffic ability when cover crops are used. So in a situation like planting in the spring, possibly getting a fall seeded cover crop like cereal rye might be helpful… I also think that reducing your tillage to build up some of that soil structure within the field could be really helpful.” - Dr. Abbey Wick Angie and Abbey shared about trafficability for spring field prep and for planting, and then Doug talked about trafficability during harvest. So everything applies no matter when you’re going into the field. Angie recommends producers access a handbook (Purdue University Extracting Stuck Equipment Safely) for best practices regarding stuck equipment. And if you find yourself stuck to stay calm and reach out for help if needed to stay safe. 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 27, 2022
Field Check: The Challenges and Benefits of Reducing Tillage
Jason Hanson, who owns Rock and Roll Agronomy based in Webster, North Dakota joins us to discuss both the benefits and the challenges of reducing tillage. One thing we always talk about on this program is to find soil health building practices that meet your particular goals, and that one farmer’s goal is not always the same as the next. “Salinity is always still number one. Part of it is just to reduce trips and cost, erosion, those types of things. And it comes with its challenges. We had challenges right off the bat and it was residue. Everybody wants to put that header on the deck and grind through everything and you leave a mat of straw out there that you have to manage and contend with.” - Jason Hanson Between “time, implement depreciation, you have your fuel, and you have parts” tillage practices can be costly to producers. Jason said in general the hardest part of this process to reduce tillage is patience, especially in years like this one with a really wet spring. But according to Jason, with anything, it’s all balance and tradeoffs. For example, the mat of residue can be “both your friend and your adversary.” “So we seeded beans deeper than he has probably ever seeded. The soil is cooler and it takes longer to get out of the ground, but it holds more moisture. And when the year turned dry later, then it wasn't so bad and they turned out really well.” - Jason Hanson Jason recommends that one of the biggest things producers can do to manage the residue is to start in the fall. In his area of North Dakota, Jason discusses their own personal interpretation of being no-till. While most no-till practices are reduced they still find that there are benefits to harrowing that outweigh being strictly no-till in some situations. “So it isn't just, I'm gonna do this. There's a lot more things that go around to it.” Jason highlights the need to focus on fertility, different varieties that prefer cooler soils and adjusting for two burn down applications per year. 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 20, 2022
Agronomy on Ice featuring Jason Hanson, Kyle Okke, Rob Sharkey, Nikki Bylin and Scott Bylin
In February Dr. Abbey Wick and I had the chance to attend a really unique event you may have heard of called Agronomy on Ice. This is an annual event on Devils Lake, North Dakota. Picture several ice houses and hundreds of people on a frozen lake in below zero temperatures who all just want to talk about agriculture and have a great time, and you’ll have the basic idea. “If you've ever been to an ag show and they have booths and you walk down the alleys and you can stop and talk to people, think of that same concept only you're on a lake in North Dakota, in February, and instead of booths, you're in an ice house…..And the whole point is to treat it like a meeting, you come in see what is in the house and you start making connections.” - Jason Hanson The folks at Anheuser Busch were kind enough to let us set up shop in their ice house and host a series of casual conversations about soil health. We hear a few highlights from three of those conversations in this episode, which include Agronomy On Ice founder and Rock’N Roll Agronomy independent agronomist Jason Hanson, his Agronomist Happy Hour podcast co-host, Kyle Okke, the one and only Shark Farmer Rob Sharkey, Anheuser Busch Agronomy Manager Nikki Bylin, and Scott Bylin who farms in Northeast North Dakota also happens to be Nikki’s husband. The day was filled with laughter, great conversation, food, and a whole lot of fun. “It's absolutely great. It's one of those things that's hard to explain...You look at it from the outside and you say, we're drinking beer, we're eating food. It looks like you're tailgating. I don't really see a lot of handouts or actual seminars... but the reality is you show up and you start meeting people, you start talking and you get into conversations…You make connections with people. You probably wouldn't have made in other settings and you probably learn more than you realize.” - Kyle Okke Throughout the day, we kept having people like Jason and Kyle pop in and sit down with us for a few minutes to talk about soil in their areas. Because as we know everyone's area and farm is unique. Our speakers shared what soil health means to their operation and customers. “Soil health is everything and it means a lot of things.….if you're not paying attention to your soil health, and you're not doing things to maintain good soils and good land, you're going to fall behind and you're not going to be profitable. You’re not even going to be economically sustainable at where crop prices are.” - Kyle Okke This Week on Soil Sense: Enjoy hearing some of the conversations that happened at Agronomy on Ice 2022 Listen to “hallway conversations” with Agronomy on Ice founder and Rock’N Roll Agronomy independent agronomist Jason Hanson, his Agronomist Happy Hour podcast co-host, Kyle Okke, the one and only Shark Farmer Rob Sharkey, and Anheuser Busch Agronomy Manager Nikki Bylin and her husband farmer Scott Bylin Connect with Soil Sense Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
April 25, 2022
Planes, Grains, and Cover Crops with Blaine Kummer
Blaine Kummer farms with his wife and parents south of Fargo in Colfax, North Dakota. They raise corn, soybeans, sugar beets, wheat and occasionally some barley. The soil is really variable in his area, from silty sand areas to Fargo silt clays. He came back to the farm after graduating from NDSU and over the years he has since tried a variety of techniques to figure out how to build healthier soil. Follow Blaine on Twitter: https://twitter.com/thek2bk Soil Sense sponsors: North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program, the North Dakota Corn Council, the North Dakota Wheat Commission, the North Dakota Soybean Council, the Northarvest Dry Bean Association, the North Dakota Barley Council, and Anheuser Busch.
March 18, 2022
Agricultural Career Training with Anissa Hoffman and Chandra Langseth
In this episode we get a chance to feature one program that is doing incredible work to train the next generation of farmers, agronomists, consultants and other ag-related professionals. The North Dakota State College of Science, based in Wahpeton offers two year programs designed to help prepare students for agricultural career paths and connect them with employers who are looking to hire. The options for students to focus on include animal science, ag business, agronomy, precision agriculture, farm management, ranch management, and ag transfer for those who want to go on to complete a four-year degree. Joining us are Anissa Hoffman and Chandra Langseth. Anissa is an associate professor in her 16th year at NDSCS working in the soils and agronomy coursework. Chandra is a second year instructor at the college who teaches all of the precision ag courses as well as some basic agronomy. There are some really compelling reasons for NDSCS’ 2-year model of postsecondary education to fit the needs of both students and hiring companies, especially in agriculture. We talk about the types of students and employers that are getting involved with the program, their hands-on teaching philosophy, and how they’re preparing the next generation of agricultural professionals. The two year program is a great opportunity for these students, but it's also in high demand from agricultural employers. “I think it's safe to say we have way more demand than students that we have to offer industry….. We always have continual calls, continual emails from places looking for people….They want someone that's got a good work ethic, maybe some knowledge about basic agricultural things, but if they are a motivated person, willing to work, be there, show up, be somewhat self-directed, they'd be a great candidate for most of our employers.” - Anissa Hoffman Anissa and Chandra are in a unique position to hear directly from employers who tell them what skills exactly employers are looking for. They have the opportunity to foster not only the work ethic and attitude that Anissa mentioned earlier but also the knowledge and skills to lay the groundwork for a successful career. “We focus on the fundamentals, the things that are going to be consistent from one operation to the next, but then within that, every operation is going to be a little unique. So there's always a really steep learning curve, wherever our students end up. But if we can provide some of that foundation in two years, that's not a very long time. So we've got a lot to kind of get through.” -Chandra Langseth This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Anissa Hoffman, an associate professor in her 16th year at NDSCS, and Chandra Langseth, a second year instructor at the college. Explore the programs offered at North Dakota State College of Science and the benefits they offer their students Discover the teaching goals and techniques they employ and the value that adds to the education they provide Connect with Soil Sense Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
March 03, 2022
Passing Along Better Soil to the Next Generation with Mike & Phil Faught
Mike and Phil Faught are a father/son partnership who farm in Absaraka, North Dakota. Mike has been working with minimal till and no till since 1980, but he says his father first tried no till as far back as the 1930s. Phil Faught is in his first year of fully taking over the operation. He had a career in sports medicine before this that allowed him to take time off and farm in the summertime, and for the past four years he has been back on the farm full time. In today’s episode, we talk about the history of conservation on their farm, their experiences in trying to minimize tillage and keep residue and cover crops on their fields, why they’ve decided to go back to banding fertilizer, and a lot more. “Farmers have always done the best they can with what they had, whether it be the plow or learning to adopt the use of fertilizers, all of those things. And you do the best with what you can, but when we see erosion, both wind and water, I don't feel as there's any excuse anymore…We have tools to use to keep this going. To keep the land going and keep it healthy. So it's a very dynamic time.” -Mike Faught Not every farmer in the area is approaching things the same way that Mike and Phil are, but Mike says that’s nothing new. Over the years they’ve been able to connect with other like minded farmers to learn from and share ideas with. Phil says his neighbors are more curious than cynical, and want to know more about what they are doing. “The traffic ability on the heavy clays, you see that right away, you may not see all the benefits, the worms, the mineralization….And that's probably the thing that most people that are getting started are worried about is I can't go across that field. We were on that field and nobody else was, and we're generally not first. We're not last, but we're not first.” -Phil Faught This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Mike and Phil Faught are a father/son partnership who farm in Absaraka, North Dakota Explore the journey the Faughts have taken and are taking in improving their soils Discover the introduction of no-till and cover crops to the Faught family operation Connect with Soil Sense Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
February 16, 2022
Farm and Ranch Safety with Doug Bichler, Angie Johnson and Emily Leier
In this episode you’re going to hear a first hand account of a farm accident. It’s a jarring reminder of how so many tasks on a farm or ranch that seem routine, can be extremely dangerous. Doug Bichler is a rancher from Linton, North Dakota. He has agreed to share his story with us of a day in 2017 that changed his life forever. Doug is the 3rd generation on his family’s ranch where he owns a seed stock operation, and raises registered Simmental Cattle and Dorper sheep. He also does custom feeding for others in the area: mainly backgrounding for feeders and replacement heifers. You’ll also hear from Angie Johnson, who is the NDSU Extension Farm & Ranch Safety Coordinator, and Emily Leier, who is the Emmons County Extension Agent. They’ll talk about impacts of farm accidents on local communities and the resources available for both prevention and support. “I actually even used to teach farm safety. I used to be an extension agent. I'm very aware of what to do and what not to do. I think there's a disconnect though, when you're in the tractor and you're doing it versus when you're in a classroom and you're teaching. It's really easy to say things, but it's a whole other thing to actually do them and practice them.” -Doug Bichler Doug has discovered that not only are there a lot of people with stories of close calls who can relate, but there is a whole community of people whose lives have been affected by firsthand experiences with farm accidents. As you can imagine, this whole experience has created a new set of challenges for Doug, but it hasn’t changed his resolve to work on the ranch. His attitude and empathy for what others might be dealing with, is something we should all aspire to. “Your attitude is just such a key factor in overcoming whatever obstacle you're facing, whether it's an accident or something else. We all have things we deal with. People can just see what I'm dealing with, but sometimes we can't see what people are dealing with. So I think that's an important thing to remember.” -Doug Bichler This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Doug Bichler, a rancher from Linton, North Dakota Hear about the farm accident in 2017 that changed Doug’s life and learn how he has used that experience to help others Learn about the far reaching effects of farm accidents in surrounding communities and operations Explore the resources provided by NDSU Extension to help make farming practices more safe Connect with Soil Sense Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
February 09, 2022
The Soil Health Snowball with Jon Bertsch
We have another great episode with a farmer who has been on a journey over the past seven years or so to try to build healthier soils on his farm in Hillsboro, North Dakota. Jon Bertsch is a third generation farmer who grows mainly corn and soybeans, but he says he is looking at adding back some wheat and sunflowers this year. Jon discusses his soil health journey both in cover crops and tillage. He has some really practical advice about getting started where you are with what you have, and he shares openly about what is working for him and what is not. Jon’s interest in cover crops all started while attending a conference in which Abbey Wick spoke. “I can manage moisture in a different way, I can manage fertility in a different way, and I can manage my weeds in a different way…. I was like this is outside the box and something different. I like the concept, I like the long term and I like what it does for the soil. It was just checking all of these boxes.” -Jon Bertsch One practice leads to another practice and there is a snowball effect there, but what does that snowball effect look like in soils? Jon says he could see signs in the soil itself, and he really felt the snowball when he could consider reducing or eliminating some of his other practices. “In those drier years, we've conserved moisture. We got this last year absolutely without a doubt. My solid seeded soybeans that went into cereal rye did awesome on a year that we needed to conserve moisture.” -Jon Bertsch This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Jon Bertsch, a third generation farmer in Hillsboro, North Dakota. Discover Jon’s journey in incorporating cover crops and changing his crop management practices Explore the influences that have helped Jon along this journey Connect with Soil Sense Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
January 31, 2022
Barley for Malting Premiums and Soil Health with Dr. Dave Franzen and Anthony Thilmony
One of the things we’ve learned over the years of doing this podcast is that we love episodes that feature both a farmer and a researcher to really capture both the complexity and the practicality of farming and soil health. That’s exactly what we have today, specifically talking about barley, and the work being done to make barley a more desirable part of the rotation to build healthier soils. Anthony Thilmony is a 4th Generation farmer in the Valley City, North Dakota area. He has a masters in Weed Science and has worked in both research and sales before returning to the farm full time. Joining Anthony is Dr. Dave Franzen, a Soil Scientist with North Dakota State University in Extension. Dave and Anthony talk about the advantages of barley, why it hasn’t won more acres in the past, and the research that’s being done to help farmers grow more marketable barley for malting. “I think this is exciting because barley does have a fit with the soil conditions we have in this state. Especially as you go into this rolling territory where we have the variable soils. We have saltier soils and barley is a crop that is very agronomically acceptable, but we quit raising it because we got tired of the marketing side.” -Anthony Thilmony For farmers like Anthony, barley used to be a common crop before corn started taking over acreage in the area. But Dave says barley still has a lot of advantages over other crops if some of the disadvantages can be mitigated, which is what his research is all about. This win-win between capitalizing on the soil health benefits of barley while still raising a quality crop that can make grade for malting premiums could allow more farmers to have their cake and eat it too. “The overriding thing was the soil health benefits of a short season crop. And it certainly did that. We could grow a ton of dry matter or so after barley compared to a few hundred pounds in the corn and soybeans. So if you're wanting to draw down on the water in a system so that you don't get salts, you mitigate salts so that you can get in there a little bit earlier in the springtime, the barley is probably part of that.” -Dr. Dave Franzen This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Anthony Thilmony, a fourth generation North Dakota farmer, and Dr. Dave Franzen, a Soil Scientist with North Dakota State University in Extension Discover the historical context and future potential for the use of the barley in North Dakota operations Connect with Soil Sense Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
January 24, 2022
Sugar Beets and Soil Health with Dan Vagle
We often talk about corn, soybeans, and small grains on this show, but those are far from the only crops focused on improving soil health. This episode is a unique look at sugar beets, and what sugar beet farmers in the Red River Valley are doing to improve their soil health. Over 11 million tons of sugar beets are harvested from the region every year, making it the number one area for the crop in the country. The soil and climate make it an ideal area for this unique crop, but also can present its own soil health challenges. Dan Vagle is a senior agronomist for American Crystal Sugar in the northern part of the Red River Valley along the Minnesota/North Dakota border. Dan grew up on a sugar beet farm near Hallock, Minnesota, so he has very real experience in every aspect of producing this interesting crop. We discuss what’s unique about sugar beets, how soil health practices have changed over time, and how they’re using techniques like nurse crops and strip tillage to build healthier soils while still maximizing their revenue per acre. “Sugar beets are expensive to raise. Sugar beets are expensive to harvest and the whole name of the game is being able to get your revenue per acre up. And that's your sugar percentage and that's your tonnage. It's yield, but not even yield. They get paid on the sugar that they produce as being a part of a cooperative.” - Dan Vagle Dan suggests being very flexible with your operations to find what variables work best for your production. He is a huge advocate for pursuing sustainable practices. But he believes it’s important to share both the successes and the failures. That way farmers, agronomists, extension, researchers and consultants can all support each other through the challenges. “There's going to be a few truths that hold through on strip till and sugar beets. Our job is to find out not so much where it works, but where it doesn't work. And that's the same way with all this stuff that's coming out right now, strip till, no till, cover crops, double cropping. The value is in the failures, not the successes….. it's the all or nothing mentality that I have to battle against. So it's the nuance. Every person is nuanced. Every farm is nuanced.” - Dan Vagle This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Dan Vagle, a senior agronomist for American Crystal Sugar Discover the process and unique characteristics of sugar beet production in the Red River Valley Explore Dans approach to sustainability, soil health and introducing new practices on an operation Connect with Soil Sense Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
December 07, 2021
Disease Management with Andrew Friskop, Ph.D.
This episode focuses on a topic that we haven’t talked about too much before: disease management. Specifically, we’re talking about a couple of diseases in corn and in small grains to be aware of, challenges with fungicide resistance, how soil health practices affect disease management, and what it looks like to take an integrated pest management approach to these diseases. Dr. Andrew Friskop, cereal crop extension plant pathologist at North Dakota State University, joins us to discuss his research in disease management strategies for North Dakota producers. He says he’s always looking at both what the research says and what’s executable on the farm level. To accomplish this he partners with farmers and other regional research extension centers around the state to plant test plots every year. “There's never a one size fits all approach, but be aware of what you're worried about during the season and put as many tools as you can in place to make it work.” - Dr. Andrew Friskop Crop rotation and genetic resistance are the initial steps Dr Friskop suggests to mitigate disease risk. Besides Goss’s wilt, he recommends monitoring for evidence of tar spot. Fortunately it is currently not present in North Dakota but could be soon and needs to be scouted for. Ongoing research is working to provide best management practices for targeting this Tar Spot fungal concern. This emerging disease highlights the concern researchers and producers alike have for chemical resistance in regards to disease management. “When you get a pest out there and you start using the same crop protection product on it for several years or decades, you're going to be able to start selecting for some of those resistant populations.” -Dr. Andrew Friskop This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Dr. Andrew Friskop, cereal crop extension plant pathologist at North Dakota State University Learn how to identify the threshold for instigating disease management practices Explore what it means to take an integrated approach to field disease management and where Dr. Friskop recommends starting your efforts as a producer Connect with Soil Sense Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
November 29, 2021
A Practical Approach to Soil Health with Mark Huso and Scott Huso
In this episode we are joined by two brothers from Northeast North Dakota who have each been on their own soil health journeys while supporting and pushing each other to keep getting better in farming and agronomy. Scott Huso farms with his wife Elizabeth south of Aneta, North Dakota. Mark Huso is the owner of Huso Crop Consulting where he works with and consults for many different types of farms across Northeast North Dakota. The Husos come from a farming background, but didn’t inherit the family farm, which was sold in the 1980s. Together they share their soil health journeys, how they are staying true to principles but not necessarily individual practices and how they are constantly pushing each other to explore different ways to maximize both productivity and soil health. Neither Scott or Mark are really dogmatic about no-till. “I am all about soil health. I’m not all about no-till,” shares Mark. They are fully committed to soil health, but also recognize that they need to use every tool at their disposal to produce a good crop no matter what mother nature sends their way. For Scott, soil health is about increasing infiltration and building soil biology. “We're trying to increase the pockets in the soil that have air because they need to be there to allow water to flow through rather than holding the water up. And then we're trying to get more microorganism activity to create these pathways and whatnot. What we're also trying to do is place the fertilizer where the crop is going to get it. And so rather than spreading it all over, it makes a lot more sense to put it where the crop needs it.” -Scott Huso This practical approach takes into consideration what can be done when something happens and a particular practice is not the right thing for those conditions. Because as Mark says, you just can’t ignore the logistics of it all. While these logistics can often impact the individual practices, it doesn’t change the principles. “So much of what we're trying to provide answers for with farmers is pick variety A over variety B or pick this fertilizer over that fertilizer. And truthfully some of the biggest yield advantages happen simply from mechanics, from row spacing, from tillage, and from different drill types.” - Mark Huso This Week on Soil Sense: Meet farmer Scott Huso and agronomist Mark Huso from Northeast North Dakota Discover their journey into soil health practices and their approach to implementing new techniques to maximize yield Follow Mark @husocrop and Scott @scotthsuo on twitter Connect with Soil Sense Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
November 22, 2021
Engaging Food and Beverage Companies with Elizabeth Reaves
One thing we try to stress on this show is that your soil health journey is going to look different from others based on your goals. Those goals may include trafficability, weed suppression, water infiltration, livestock integration or a whole host of other potential and very worthwhile goals. Keeping these goals at the forefront of your mind is helpful in determining which practices may be right for you. It’s also nice to see incentives popping up from government, organizations, and companies to help assist farmers in building healthier soils. While these incentives shouldn’t take the place of the goals you have for your farm, they can help de-risk the process of pursuing more soil health building practices. Today’s guest works with large food and beverage companies that want to do their part to improve the soil of the farmers that produce their raw ingredients. Elizabeth Reaves is the Senior Program Director for Agriculture and Environment at the Sustainable Food Lab. She works with large multinational food and beverage companies to help connect the commitments they’ve made to climate, regenerative agriculture and/or alleviating poverty in their supply chains to direct investment on the ground with farmers. She shares insights into how they’re viewing soil health and what approaches they’re taking to support farmers on this journey. “The place that we most often like to start is taking our company partners to visit farmers in a particular place. And those are often some of the most powerful learning experiences because they get to have a real conversation with farmers and they get to not just hear what the farmers’ challenges are, but also what farmers have already done and tried and what they're testing and innovating.” -Elizabeth Reaves Hosting stakeholders on the farm “are often the most transformative moments for our companies in terms of really understanding….the things that we need to provide in terms of program support” to producers. For all of the talk about soil health, it’s so incredibly vital that the people who are offering incentives and voicing their opinions and visions have those grounded in what’s actually executable at the farm level. For Elizabeth and the Food Lab, they need to take these teachable moments and convert them into both short term and long term outcomes. “What we know doesn't work is pushing a set of standards. And I think most of the companies, at least the ones that I work with, really want to figure out how to pull a whole system to change at scale. So I'm really optimistic that through partnerships, between companies, with organizations like NDSU, the farmer networks that they're building and the farmers that they can reach, that we actually start to see some of that real tide change.” - Elizabeth Reaves Connect with Soil Sense Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
November 17, 2021
Weed Management and Soil Health with Jason Hanson and Joe Ikley
We’re very lucky to have on the show two well-respected agronomic experts to talk about current weed management challenges. They share with us the weeds that have been the most difficult to manage, how high prices and supply chain challenges are impacting the tools farmers have at their disposal, and what the future of weed control looks like. Joining me today are Joe Ikely, extension weed specialist at North Dakota State University, and Jason Hanson, owner and operator of Rock N Roll Agronomy. Joe’s work includes both extension and research in weed control with an emphasis on corn soybeans and dry beans. Jason is an independent crop consultant working directly with farmers as well as consulting with ag retailers on a contract basis. “Kochia, that's definitely from my perspective, the top weed issue of this year….kind of a reminder for those who haven't had to battle kochia for a while, that once we get dry conditions, there's still plenty of plants around producing seeds, spreading them around.” - Joe Ikely What makes Kochia unique is the ability to develop an “aggressive root system” that will reach and take advantage of any moisture available. When the climate is dry, the crops struggle to compete with that root system. Compounding the issue for producers is herbicide resistance limiting the efficacy of inputs. These factors have impacted farming practices this year and are expected to continue next year. “Now I've got a higher (kochia) population. There's definitely more kochia that has been cut, harvested and is rolling and tumbling around the countryside on some of our windy days. So we'll definitely have more pressure to deal with in 2022.” - Jason Hanson This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Joe Ikely, extension weed specialist at North Dakota State University, and Jason Hanson, owner and operator of Rock N Roll Agronomy Discover the most significant weed pressure exhibited in 2021 and how that may affect weed management in 2022 Explore the many factors affecting weed populations in North Dakota and the mitigating practices producers can adopt Hear more from Jason on the podcast “Agronomist Happy Hour” Follow Joe Ikely at the “War Against Weeds” podcast Connect with Soil Sense Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
November 09, 2021
Carbon Economics with Dr. David Archer
In this episode we dive into the economics of carbon credits. Specifically, how should farmers approach the emerging markets that are popping up for carbon offsets and credits. We are joined by Dave Archer, an agricultural economist at the Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory. His specific research interests include risk management, simulation modeling, decision aid development, bioenergy economics, and decision making to achieve both economic and natural resource goals. Dave is going to answer some of the most asked questions about these carbon markets, such as: What questions should a farmer be asking before they get involved with one? Why are they not willing to compensate for the previous decades of soil health building practices? How should this influence farm management decisions? Dave highlights three important components in this discussion: additionality, permanence, and pricing. “The value of these credits goes up and down and will continue to go up and down. So it's important to understand how those price changes are handled in any contract, whether you can get the benefits of any price increases or whether you have losses with price decreases.” - Dave Archer, Ph.D. While these carbon programs can be great incentives to try soil health building practices, Dave says it’s important to keep them in perspective and consider first and foremost how incorporating new practices will impact the bottom line. As an added benefit, practices that build soil health and sequester carbon can also be more profitable over time. “I think the most important thing is just understanding the system impacts. If you're thinking about adopting practices that may build carbon, there are potential economic benefits associated with that. Carbon credits and carbon markets may be a way to get additional incentives and help you make that change.” - Dave Archer, Ph.D. Watch the Capturing Carbon Workshop Here! This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Dave Archer, an agricultural economist at the Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory Explore the economic impacts of the carbon credits market for producers Discover the questions producers need to ask and the answers they need to understand before pursuing a contract based on carbon credits Connect with Soil Sense Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
November 01, 2021
Catching Carbon with Dr. Caley Gasch and Dr. Mark Liebig
Soil health has been increasingly in the spotlight in recent years, and no topic has been drawing more attention than the concept of soil carbon. Specifically, can farmers optimize the amount of carbon they pull from the air and store in the soil based on farming practices? And can that carbon sequestration reach levels where it’s part of the solution to climate change? Much of the exuberance surrounding these topics glosses over the science involved. To put this concept into perspective we have on the show Dr. Mark Liebig with the USDA ARS, and Dr. Caley Gasch who is a soil ecologist with North Dakota State University. The audio was recorded at the “Catching Carbon” live workshop put on by the North Dakota Corn Council, NDSU Extension, and USDA. “It's no surprise that when we think about dealing with the challenges in the future, we've got to look to the soil...It's going to be a really big part in how we create systems that are robust and resilient to these extremes. And so this is why I think soil carbon and soil health are often a pretty good partnership.” - Dr. Mark Liebig Soil has always been a sink for carbon, but over the decades as more land has been converted to cultivated cropland, we’ve released a lot of that stored carbon back into the atmosphere. Dr. Liebig goes on to make practice suggestions to best support carbons sequestration. “Increase your biomass production, that's number one, maintain that soil cover, apply organic amendments. On the loss side, we want to minimize that soil disturbance as much as possible. If we can, don't burn that crop residue. That's a really good way to lose a lot of carbon.” Dr. Mark Liebig Dr. Gasch explains the origin, cyclical nature and different types of carbon available in the soil. Another prominent variable in the success of carbon sequestration is the weather and its effects on the soil. Because of all of these factors, changing and verifying the soil’s carbon material is a slow and involved process. “A 1% increase in organic carbon takes between 10 and 15 years….and that would be under best management practices, minimal tillage, and maximum plant productivity.” - Dr. Caley Gasch This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Dr. Mark Liebig with the USDA ARS and Dr. Caley Gasch a soil ecologist with North Dakota State University Explore the different types of carbon present in the soil Discover the strategies in maintaining and encouraging carbon storage in the soil Learn how increasing soil carbon takes a long time and there are many variables at play Visit the “Catching Carbon” Workshop to see more on this topic Connect with Soil Sense Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
October 25, 2021
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 02, 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 03, 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 05, 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 09, 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 01, 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 09, 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 01, 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 01, 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 09, 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 02, 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 05, 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 runo