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Soil Sense

Soil Sense

By NDSU Extension
Welcome to the Soil Sense Podcast, where we believe that building healthier soils is not just a prescription, but rather a pursuit. This journey requires collaboration, curiosity, and communication among farmers, agricultural researchers, agronomists, consultants, and extension. You’re going to hear their stories and discover how and why they’re working together to make sense out of what’s happening in the soil.
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Rock and Roll Agronomy with Jason Hanson

Soil Sense

Educating the Next Generation with Ag Teacher Whitney Landman
Agriculture teachers are responsible for not only teaching agricultural principles to the youth of today but also for encouraging their experience in agriculture and to promote leadership in whatever field they choose. Whitney Landman joins us from Larimore High School in Larimore, North Dakota. Whitney teaches both junior high and high school classes starting with introductory classes and ranging all the way to ag mechanics and community development. “We always try to start with that intro level and exploring….so that we can bounce up into other concepts as well when they are older.” - Whitney Landman Beyond the classroom, Whitney is also the FFA advisor. Her students are encouraged to participate in career development events and leadership development events. These events promote public speaking, leadership roles, agronomy identification and business management skills. “The mission of agriculture education is to prepare students for successful careers and choices in the global agriculture, food, fiber and natural resource system…..So my goal, and I think a lot of teachers’ goal as they lead the ag ed program, is that our students find a career that they love, whether that's in ag or not.” - Whitney Landman Whitney highlights the importance of hands on experience for her students and the significant impact that can have on her students' interest and concept understanding. She likes to see them “get active with the content” to encourage curiosity and excitement. Support from the NRCS helps her achieve these goals in allowing students to experiment with different soil health protocols including the effects of wind erosion and conventional tillage. She happily uses resources including local farmers to give her students more opportunity to see agriculture in action and learn skills they might not be able to gain otherwise. This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Whitney Landman, an agricultural education teacher from Larimore High School in Larimore, North Dakota Learn about the many classes her program offers to its students Explore what she finds most effective for teaching new concepts to students Hear about the many collaborations she has engaged in to give her students the most opportunity to learn Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
October 19, 2020
Rock and Roll Agronomy with Jason Hanson
Agronomists play a significant role in following the progressive research in agronomic practices and assisting farmers in their operations. Jason Hanson is an Independent Crop Consultant with Rock and Roll Agronomy based in Webster, North Dakota. Jason has a long history of providing objective agronomic information to farmers and today he shares his take on what the role of his agronomist is. He also shares his perspective on cover crops which are slowly gaining popularity in his area. “It’s about managing sunlight on the ground. It’s that simple. When it comes to weed control, that's where a cover crop can come in and provide you part of that deal, so you don’t have growth. It’s just a different way of doing it. You’re not dumping something in the sprayer, you’re putting something in the air seeder to do that.” - Jason Hanson Jason shares the importance of networking and forming relationships with scientists and producers in your area to learn about new ideas and technologies. He is forever learning and forever adjusting his recommendations based on the environmental circumstances producers are presented with. “Logistics beats agronomy seven days a week.” - Jason Hanson Jason adjusts his recommendations and expectations based on many factors just as the goals and opportunities of his producers are also dynamic. If a planting window shifts plans are adjusted to accommodate it. He sees the future of agriculture being an interest in inputs with regards to carbon levels and biological activity. “Everyone wants the quick easy answer…..and it's complicated,” shares Jason. “To me, that is the next step where ag is going. It’s going to be finding those things that we can use to enhance disease control, nutrient uptake, and yield potential, that are naturally occurring.” - Jason Hanson This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Jason Hanson an Independent Crop Consultant with Rock and Roll Agronomy Learn about his approach to agronomy with his clients and with staying on top of ongoing research and developments Hear about what he thinks is the most significant benefit to cover crops Explore “Agronomy on Ice” and learn how to join your agronomic community Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
October 12, 2020
Cover Crops: Science, Practice, and Mindset with Greg Amundson and Greg Endres
We have talked about cover crops a lot on this podcast. Today we speak with both a farmer and an extension agronomist about the decision-making required to introduce cover crops into an operation. Greg Amundson is a 4th generation farmer who farms with his dad near Gilby, North Dakota. Amundson began his venture with cover crops through an EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program) with the NRCS. He explains how he approaches farming from a strict bottom line perspective when he says “I don’t push for top yields. I push for the top return.” “You don’t learn from your successes, you learn from your failures. So if you don’t fail, you don’t know if what you’re doing is right or wrong.” Greg Amundson We are also joined by Greg Endres, a Cropping Systems Specialist with NDSU Extension. Endres focuses his efforts on bringing more data to cover crop decision making as cover crops are generally new to many productions. He hopes to make the information available to producers in order to make the most informed and beneficial decisions. “If we have university data for people as a starting point for cover crops, that’ll give them a better chance of being successful with their cover crop and soil health program.” - Greg Endres Endres shares that there is not a “one size fits all” to success with cover crops. Environmental factors and crop rotation considerations must be taken into account when making decisions about what cover crops to plant and when. “It all boils down to the amount of moisture and especially timely moisture,” explains Endres. While a cover crop can provide many benefits to the soil he cautions producers from discounting the amount of soil moisture the rye or other cover crop will take up and eliminate from any interseeded crops. One study is exploring the measurement of soil moisture to determine the rye termination date with the understanding that a poorly timed killing of the rye can adversely affect the yield of the main cash crop. While interseeding with a cover crop can present this risk of limited resources for crop yield, as always there are many apparent benefits to be factored in. “The winter rye can serve as a substitute for a pre-emergence soil applied herbicide. So in other words, you can either use rye as a suppressant and terminate the rye when appropriate. That rye will hold back weeds quite nicely. And it can be a substitute for a soil applied herbicide…..So you’re trading management with herbicide usage.” - Greg Endres This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Greg Endres, a Cropping Systems Specialist at NDSU Extension and Greg Amundson, a fourth generation farmer in North Dakota. Explore how Amundson approaches the addition of cover crops to his operation and the improvements he has observed Learn from Endres about ongoing research and factors that affect your cover crop selections and management Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
October 5, 2020
Interseeding Cover Crops for Livestock Forage with Dr. Marisol Berti and Dr. Yvonne Lawley
Today we focus on interseeding cover crops with forage quality in mind and exciting areas for ongoing research. We are joined by Dr. Marisol Berti, a professor in the Department of Plant Sciences at North Dakota State University, and Dr. Yvonne Lawley, an Assistant Professor in the Plant Science Department at the University of Manitoba. “When people want to get into cover crops….we can’t really give you a recipe. We need to know what do you want the cover crops for? You know, if you want forage in the fall or forage in the spring, you’re going to have to change some practices.” - Dr. Marisol Berti Dr. Berti found that intercropping corn with legumes such as alfalfa will provide a good forage and from a behavioral standpoint encourage the cattle to graze the field for longer periods of time in the winter because of a windbreak provided by the corn stocks. Unfortunately, there was not evidence of usable nitrogen left in the soil for the next crop. So if there isn’t the added benefit of nitrogen with interseeding, how do producers recover the added expense of cover crops while still providing forage? “One way to get it back is when you raise cover crops, animals gain weight and that actually pays for the cover crops. So integrating with livestock really pays for the cover crops.” - Dr. Marisol Berti Dr. Lawley shares that “science is exciting because one idea leads to a new question.” Many were surprised about the lack of nitrogen fixation after adding a legume to the corn crop. She shares that the research is ongoing and we are learning more about these fundamental processes which allow us to recommend agronomic adjustments. That in turn will allow for more accurate predictions of benefits and risks for producers. "We wanted to harness all of the potential of corn as a feed crop but then use intercropping to overcome some of its weaknesses." - Dr. Yvonne Lawley This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Dr. Marisol Berti and Dr. Yvonne Lawley Explore the benefits of interseeding corn with forage type cover crops and find out how to get the most benefit out of the process Learn about ongoing research to understand the processes involved in this technique in production Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
September 28, 2020
Stories of Soil Health with Gil Gullickson
Gil Gullickson is the Crops Technology Editor at Successful Farming Magazine. Over the last three decades he has reported on agriculture in multiple publications. He has the benefit of having years of experience studying and discussing movements and changes in agriculture. Gil grew up on a farm in South Dakota. That background has greatly influenced his reporting style. “So I kind of try to put myself in those shoes, in that neighborhood I grew up, and ask those questions that my neighbors would want to ask.” - Gil Gullickson Gil has been able to watch, reflect and report on the incorporation of soil health building practices into operations. Apart from the soil health benefits he has seen farmers gain more financial flexibility by pursuing soil health initiatives with year round cropping and calls it a “phenomenal impact.” Gil said he has observed that many of these soil health changes made over time have been a welcomed by-product of a focus on better water management practices. “It’s not about no-till, it's not about cover crops. It’s not about diverse rotations. It's not about soil microbes. It's not about bio-engineered soil. It's about water management and these are all tools that enable farmers to better manage water.” - Gil Gullickson Some operations not only improve their soil health but can save money from the onset in some soil health practices. Gil shares the significance of a great idea or movement taking time to marinate, develop and grow. He uses the example of an article he published called “Surefire Ways to Sustain Your Farm” that evolved overtime by gathering different farmers' perspectives. He maintains that when evaluating technology the bottom line has to be prominent in the decision making. “When you’re adopting technology make sure it's going to return investment on your farm.” Gil Gullickson This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Gil Gullickson a seasoned agriculture journalist who currently works as the Crops Technology Editor at Successful Farming Magazine Gil reflects on the changes and trends in soil health over the last few decades Explore the many reasons farmers get involved in soil health practices that extend beyond the benefits to the soil itself Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
September 21, 2020
Systems Thinking with Woody Van Arkel and Dr. Lee Briese
Very little in this world is all or none and soil health protocols are no different. There is no one size fits all for every operation. “There’s a grey area in between that needs to be addressed” says Woody Van Arkel, a farmer in Ontario. Woody shares that some crops, specifically vegetable farming, require special handling and field management that cannot exclude all tilling practices. This resonates well with Central Crop Consulting Agronomist Dr. Lee Briese. “I work with enough farmers that do a lot of different things and you understand right away that there’s more than one way to do things. ….The goal here is to produce a  crop and do it well while protecting the resources.” - Dr. Lee Briese Lee recommends having producers create well defined “clear and attainable” goals such as managing water, managing soil or reducing erosion. While profitability is the underlying mission that isn’t specific enough to focus your efforts. A well-framed goal will create a measurable benchmark to better evaluate for change and success. Lee also cautions producers from “painting themselves into a corner” by prematurely picking the cover crop they would like to start with. He recommends considering what herbicides you want to use and how the residue will be managed and then determine the cover crop that best fits that program. Being flexible and considering long term planning with outcomes is critical to the success of new practices. While using these recommendations, Woody has been persuaded to choose a different cover crop mix than he would have otherwise. “The goal is maybe not so much cover crop diversity as getting the living root system established that works. A practical system that works for the biggest part.” - Woody Van Arkel The collaboration of Woody and Lee has created a healthy dynamic of seeking advice and not just validation. Because every situation and operation is unique they bounce ideas off of each other in order to decide what would be the best fit towards Woody’s goals. “Using my scientific background and my experiences to try to...reduce his risk is really the way I see this for growers is just trying to make things fit so that it fits their farm, their machinery, their timing, their goals, to reduce their risk.” - Dr. Lee Briese This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Woody Van Arkel a farmer in Ontario Explore the collaboration created between him and agronomist Dr. Lee Briese Learn the philosophy these two share in regards to soil health practices Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
September 14, 2020
Field Check: Decades of Soil Health Building Practices
“I’m always curious about the stories behind soil health and how the farmers choose to use these practices. And so I was wondering if someone could help answer a question on how they got started in soil health, the practices they may have tried over the years, things that worked and didn’t work, and what they’re going to try in the future to keep these practices going on their farm? ” - Dr. Abbey Wick, NDSU Extension Soil Health Specialist Kerry Swindler farms near Mott, North Dakota. He started no-tilling in the early 80s and became involved in the ManDak Zero-Till Association, which was a group of pioneering farmers interested in creating healthier soils in Manitoba and North Dakota. “When we started no-tilling in the early 80’s. That was part of the challenge for us is getting some of the organic matter back into the soil so that it would just stay where it belongs. It wouldn’t blow so easy, it wouldn’t wash when we had a heavy rain.” - Kerry Swindler Kerry describes the major shifts in soil management protocols that began with hopes of preventing further soil erosion. During a sunflower harvest, Kerry noticed how difficult it was to move the combine across the field due to a loss of top soil. That started them “down a path” of transitioning to no-till. Kerry reports “it didn’t take long to start seeing some of the benefits.” “The first thing, there was a lot less wind erosion. Right out of the gate… It didn’t take too many years and we started seeing a bump up in our organic matter of our soils….It was exciting to see.” - Kerry Swindler After 40 years of no-till practices he is noticing a plateau of added benefits but he is not done. He wants to continue to improve his fields and is now exploring cover crops. “I think there’s more to go and that's where I am.” “I’m happy with where we are….. I hesitate to even think what it would look like if we hadn’t done this. It would be a disaster.” - Kerry Swindler Follow the link 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 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… can count on no matter what you’re doing out in the field that some portion of that is going to go to runoff because most soils just simply cannot take in that much water in that short of a period.” - Dr. Aaron Daigh The water that is absorbed by the soil then adds value based on where it is stored. If it is stored shallow, in the first 6 inches, you can run into issues with “root rot, fungal diseases, wilting and drowning of that crop. “The portion of the water that goes deeper into the soil profile is ideal because you put water to where it can be stored for later for that crop when it’s needed.” Another added benefit to having water infiltrate deeper in the soil profile is keeping the soil stronger which will reduce future erosion and support equipment during harvest. Dr. Daigh suggests farmers make every attempt to not disrupt the soil anymore than necessary in order to increase its strength and contribute to water infiltration. “Reducing the amount of disturbance that you have to that soil through aggressive tillage practices, helps get more water down these big macro pores that move water down deeper into the soil profile to be stored and prevent abundance of runoff and water erosion.” Dr. Aaron Daigh Cover crops will also reduce disruption of soil by major rainfall which can be substantial. “The higher the residue rate, the slower that water’s going to move across and have a chance to infiltrate down into the soil and prevent what is running off from picking up speed as it goes down the landscape.” Follow the link to participate in our next question and answer segment to share your questions and get them answered by the experts! Connect with Soil Sense at Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
August 17, 2020
Field Check: Managing the Complexities of Adding a New Crop
“How do farmers add more crops in their cropping rotation and manage the complexity of doing that in their farm operation?” - Jocelyn Velsestuk, Independent Agronomy Consultant for Western Ag, the President of the Saskatchewan Soil Conservation Association and a Director of The Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission Dr. David Ripplinger is an Associate Professor in the Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics at North Dakota State University. He considers himself “an economist by training” but also a “systems thinker” and joins us to address Jocelyn's question. “I would start with extension. Go and talking to folks like us to get some information.” - Dr. David Ripplinger Dr. Ripplinger has some calculated budgets that can give possible projected yields and earnings for the farmer to understand what the outcome of a more complex operation may be. He asks farmers to consider the economics, the impact a new crop would have on your soil and how that may affect your input needs in future years. Finally, farmers need to also consider how to market a new crop to know what additional resources that may require. “You should never put a seed in the ground before you know what the likely home for that crop is.” “There’s these agronomic trade offs, there’s these financial trade offs….understand the system as a whole which I think farmers generally do. Understand that change you’re making. Do some quick back of the envelope work and then decide how much do I need to really look at this to pull the trigger.” -Dr. David Ripplinger Follow the link to participate in our next question and answer segment to share your questions and get them answered by the experts! Connect with Soil Sense at Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
August 10, 2020
Field Check: Getting Started with Cover Crops
“I’m getting the question about farmers wanting to plant a cover crop. But it's kind of a generic statement. So I think what they’re really asking is what do I plant and when do I plant? Where do I start? Where do we begin on this journey? ” - Jason Hanson, Consultant with Rock and Roll Agronomy Dr. Abbey Wick is a Soil Health Extension Specialist at North Dakota State University. She offers some great advice for farmers wanting to venture into cover crops and the many benefits they offer. “The simplest place to start is if you have a wheat in rotation, just let the volunteer grow and that’s your first cover crop. If you have some additional goals that you want to address, whether its compaction in a field or salinity. Say you dig a hole in your field and the soil aggregates or the structure looks like it could use a little help then adding in some different cover crops to that volunteer wheat might be a good solution.” - Dr. Abbey Wick If you don’t have wheat in your rotation then Dr. Wick offers interseeding something like rye into corn. Interseeding practices may require different row spacing so farmers need to be aware of those potential changes. Soybeans present a different challenge as they produce a strong canopy that may make it difficult for a cover crop to get established. Dr. Wick recommends adjusting your timing and method of seeding to compensate for this obstacle. Cover crops can help manage salinity issues where soybeans or corn may suffer. They can help provide structure and better trafficability to the field. Most farmers will start with one species of cover crop at a time but a cocktail of species can be used. Typically radish or rye can be used as first cover crops depending on what rotation that field has. There are pros and cons to each species and how they interact with what the next crop is. Dr Wick highlights that knowing the crop you are adding to your field, knowing the next crop in rotation to avoid any contraindicated cover crops and knowing your goals are the three critical things to consider when starting with cover crops. “Cover crops don’t have to be fancy mixes and they don’t have to be really complex to work. And I think that’s what I want farmers to walk away with.” - Dr. Abbey Wick Follow the link to participate in our next question and answer segment to share your questions and get them answered by the experts! Connect with Soil Sense at Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
August 3, 2020
Field Check: Hybrid Rye
“Hybrid small grain varieties seem to be gaining traction in some parts of Canada and the United States. What are the benefits and drawbacks of hybrid rye, wheat and barley varieties?” - Luke Struckman, Researcher and University Instructor based in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Steve Zwinger is a Field Agronomist at the North Dakota State University Carrington Extension Center where he works with many cereal crops including hybrid varieties of rye. “Some of these hybrids have been in in order to go over 200 or up to 200 bushels per acre range… the yield potential is there.” - Steve Zwinger Steve continues with the hybrid rye advantages by explaining a shorter pollination window resulting in less ergot and a more uniform growth resulting in less lodge. With all of these advantages he does report a higher priced seed which depending on your market may not be worth the expense. At this time, Steve doesn’t know of too many farmers growing hybrid rye although seed production has begun. There have been many attempts at producing a hybrid wheat. According to Steve “there are probably still people working on it, but there’s nothing commercially available.” Ultimately what was produced was not commercially viable enough to encourage ongoing research and development. Follow the link to participate in our next question and answer segment to share your questions and get them answered by the experts! Connect with Soil Sense at Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
July 27, 2020
Field Check: Fertility for No Till Corn
“What is the best way to get all your fertility down in a no-till corn situation, especially your P and K?” - Kyle Geske, a Farmer from Enderlin, North Dakota Dr. Dave Franzen, an Extension Soil Specialist at North Dakota State University, joins us to answer Kyle’s question. Dr. Franzen has extensive experience in both research and retail agronomy. You may recognize him from Season one of Soil Sense Episode Three and Episode Four. “It is really important in the northern plains, specifically in North Dakota, to use a starter at planting time, at least for the phosphate.” - Dr. Dave Franzen Dr. Franzen has seen some significant yield increase in no-till corn operations that have employed a starter phosphate application. He shares that the weather for planting for a no-till operation results in cooler temperatures for those farmers. The additional phosphate will help support plants in the face of those cooler temperatures and lead to dramatic yield increases. He also highlights the need for additional nitrogen for the first 6 years of transition from a conventional till to no-till operation. There are 14 essential nutrients that the plants need, 10 of which we have effective testing for. Nitrate testing is probably the most valuable and most significant of all the values evaluated. He does caution any producer that is testing for Potassium. Potassium values change dramatically depending on the season so consistent testing at the same time every year is critical for evaluating potassium trends in the soil. “And then the Sulfur Soil test. I know sometimes you get it as part of a soil test suite but it’s a horrible test and people shouldn’t even pay attention to it.” - Dr Dave Franzen Follow the link to participate in our next question and answer segment to share your questions and get them answered by the experts! Connect with Soil Sense at Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
July 20, 2020
Field Check: The Tradeoffs of Planting Green
“I like seeding soybeans green into growing  winter rye for a variety of reasons. I think trafficability and weed control are much better with 40 or 50 pounds of rye growing in the field. The tradeoff is that the rye and the existing stubble keep the ground colder and wetter in some years, so the soybeans have a hard time getting going. My question is, is there any way to have warmer drier ground in the spring and reap the other benefits of planting green?” - Nathan Neameyer, Farmer from Rolla, ND. Dr. Lee Briese joins us to help answer Nathan’s question. Lee is a Crop Consultant covering Stutsman and Barnes Counties for Centrol Crop Consulting. Lee has been scouting fields and providing recommendations to farmers in North Dakota for over 20 years. Lee was featured in episode six of season one of Soil Sense. Lee emphasizes that planting soybeans green into cereal rye does involve tradeoffs. “It’s actually protecting the soil, reducing evaporation, and slowing down the heating of it, and that is a concern for him early season. But the rye is also doing the same thing to the weeds. It’s giving you weed control. It’s protecting your soil moisture loss. So it’s helping you with your seed bed and emergence. I think it’s one of those things at this point, I’m not sure we can have both.”  - Dr. Lee Briese Lee says there are things that can be done to optimize the benefits of the cereal rye without slowing down the soybeans as much early on, such as reducing the planted population of rye or a wider row spacing. He also cautions to make sure that the concern is not just a matter of perception. “We know that soybean tolerates a lot of difficulty, especially early in the the appearance of the soybeans early on is not necessarily a critical factor. We do know that early planted soybeans - early flowering soybeans - have a better chance at having higher yields. But for much of North Dakota, the yield is fairly directly correlated to ‘when do we get rain during flowering?’.” - Dr. Lee Briese Lee also recommends that farmers check their soil temps well into the season when evaluating the tradeoffs of planting green into cereal rye. Follow the link to participate in our next question and answer segment to share your questions and get them answered by the experts! Connect with Soil Sense at Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
July 13, 2020
Field Check: How to Revive Nutrient-Depleted Forage Ground
“Recently I bought a piece of land that most of it has been hay land for generations. So there’s been a lot of nutrients exported and I’ve been trying to intentionally replace nutrients. I was just wondering what kind of a cover crop strategy would you employ on something like that given the season, particularly for fall grazing? When would you sow? What would you sow? What kind of mixes? How much per acre? Mainly to be harvested as standing stockpile by cows and some sheep. How would you approach this piece of land that’s mostly 85% to 90% crested wheat at this point? What kind of cover crops would you introduce and why?” - Clay Conry, Host of Working Cows Podcast Dr. Kevin Sedivec joins us to help answer Clay’s question. Dr. Sedivec is the Extension Rangeland Management Specialist at North Dakota State University Extension and Director of the Central Grasslands Research Extension Center. You may remember him from Episode 006 of Soil Sense Season 2. Dr. Sedivec shares that this is a common obstacle faced by producers. In trying to rejuvenate pastures for grazing, producers are asking annuals to compete with long established perennials. The perennial plants will take up water and will have contributed to a nitrogen deficient soil. Typically these long established perennials are exotic in origin and therefore do not have a natural symbiosis established with the environment. “So you’re asking a grass to do something in that soil that it doesn’t naturally do because it’s not native. It becomes deficient of fertility is what’s really driving this. So we’re trying to bring something in to enhance that soil microbial population....the most common (legume) used is alfalfa.” - Dr. Kevin Sedivec Unfortunately the long term fix for deficient soils takes more than one season. Dr. Sedivec recommends beginning with a legume mix to start the process. There are regional variations with which legume mix will be most successful and Dr. Sedivec recommends contacting your local NRCS or extension agent to find what suits your situation best. In Clay’s case he recommends using a yellow blossom alfalfa at 10 pounds per acre and either seeding in the fall or early spring. “That will give them a long term fix of a legume with his grass. We’re putting exotics and exotics but it at least will help him, one, in terms of production and, two, it will help him in terms of soil fertility and soil microbial activity to kind of get that soil back into a healthy state.” - Dr. Kevin Sedivec Ideally we would like to add more species to the mix but according to Dr. Sedivec “that’s probably the best we can do to enhance (Clay’s) production and quality in those soils in that stand.” Adding nitrogen can also help with helping to build the soils. An additive, such as urea, will not last long term but will provide benefit for the new crops planted as you build your soil. Strategies can be adjusted for more long term management including cover crops as the soils change. Follow the link to participate in our next question and answer segment to share your questions and get them answered by the experts! Connect with Soil Sense at Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
July 6, 2020
Field Check: Cutworms in Soybeans Planted Green into Cover Crop
“I heard from a customer the other day about cutworms in a soybean field that was planted green into cereal rye. I was wondering if this is common and do we need to recommend scouting for cutworms or other pests when using cover crops?” - Chris Prochnow, Territory Manager for Agassiz Seed and Supply Dr. Janet Knodel, an extension entomologist at North Dakota State University, joins us to help answer Chris’s question. North Dakota is home to at least 32 different species of cutworms. “Most (cutworms) do love weedy fields or grassy fields in the fall. So that’s probably why they ended up in the rye field is because it was seeded in the fall and that’s very attractive to most of the species of cutworms. And then they cause damage in the spring.” Dr. Janet Knodel Eggs are laid in the soil usually in September. Some species will stay as eggs over winter and some will hatch into larvae. The larvae or caterpillar is the damaging stage. When scouting, look for evidence of defoliation, bare spots or cut plants laying on the ground. Some species will clip the plant when it's young and some will climb them and damage the leaves. The larvae and adult moth are active at night so they may not be readily apparent during the day. “You pretty much just need to get out in the spring and scout and monitor the fields for infestation.” - Dr. Janet Knodel Four or more larvae per foot of row is the threshold for wheat, barley, oats and rye. You want to “implement your chemical controls” when they are smaller larvae. Towards the end of their feeding schedule, typically at the end of June, the larvae become more difficult to kill as they are more mature. Unfortunately there aren’t any “forecasting models” for cutworm infestation. This makes it hard to predict which field they will infest and what environments they prefer. Dr. Knodel explains this is why regular scouting is critical to managing any potential infestation.. Follow the link to participate in our next question and answer segment to share your questions and get them answered by the experts! Connect with Soil Sense at Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
June 29, 2020
Field Check: Considering Crop Rotation When Selecting Cover Crops
“I’m looking at cover crop mix to put on some ground that’s going to be seeded to wheat and barley next year. I’m wondering if barley works in that mix or if I should be looking at something else?” - Bryan Kenner of Kenner Farms Dr. Andrew Friskop joins us to answer Bryan’s question. He is a cereal extension plant pathologist at North Dakota State University. Dr. Friskop begins tackling this question by pointing out that the focus needs to be on whether already present “diseases in barley could be contributing to next year’s barley crop.” Potential risk of residue borne diseases such as fungal leaf spots, net blotch, spot blotch and Fusarium head blight need to be evaluated and are typically of most concern. However, Dr Friskop does highlight that a cover crop mix creates a different environment than a monoculture environment would. “We have a lot less plants. Those other plants might actually be barriers for some of that infection. So how I treat the situation is I would suggest that yes, there is a risk, but I wouldn’t consider it a high risk just because of some of those other factors.” - Dr. Andrew Friskop While introducing plants that may transmit disease is not ideal it seems the cover crop mix environment makes the risk of that unlikely. The two biggest risk factors for cover crops spreading disease involve soybean cyst nematode in soybeans and clubroot in canola. You ultimately want to avoid a “pathogen and disease system that’s very difficult to manage once you have it.” All that being said, “mother nature always throws us curve balls.” “We handle each season as a separate year and we just look at managing the wheat and barley crop to the best of our ability for each year.” - Dr. Andrew Friskop Follow the link to participate in our next question and answer segment to share your questions and get them answered by the experts! Connect with Soil Sense at Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
June 22, 2020
Field Check: Cereal Rye for Kochia Control + Dicamba Update
Introducing Soil Sense: Field Check. We find the right expert to answer YOUR questions about anything related to farming, agronomy, and soil health. We invite you to participate at Today’s question comes from Jason Hanson of Rock & Roll Agronomy: “There’s going to be Prevented Plant, and now with the uncertainty of dicamba registrations moving forward, even though North Dakota is a 24(c): How does winter cereal rye help with controlling kochia as a potential other option?” To answer this excellent question that Jason has been getting, we enlisted the help of North Dakota State University Extension Weed Specialist Dr. Joe Ikley. Joe is based in Fargo and is responsible for all crops in the state except potatoes and sugar beets. He conducts weed control research primarily in corn, soybeans, and dry beans. Listen to this short Field Check episode for Dr. Ikley’s full answer, but here is one quote you may find helpful: “When we look at an overwintering cover crop like rye, we get our best weed control on winter annual weeds, but of course kochia is a summer annual weed…. (rye) does not reduce the number of plants that we are going to have to spray, but it does buy us more time to get a timely herbicide application on there.” Follow the link to participate in our next question and answer segment to share your questions and get them answered by the experts! Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
June 15, 2020
Collaborations to Advance Soil Health
Today we review some fascinating examples of advancing soil health. One individual farmer interested in these new practices will find a lot of obstacles to being successful. Most of the farmers we have interviewed have formed collaborations with other farmers, worked with an independent agronomist, and communicated with research and extension professionals. Collaborations can’t be forced. It takes honesty and passion for achieving an end goal. These collaborations often foster deeper relationships. “It's fun. It seems like every day, we can talk about something new and exciting…..It’s made farming fun in my eyes.” - Tyler Zimmerman (Season 2: Episode 4) “Finding this information, seeing the yield, seeing the variability is what led to “boy, can we manage this?” And I have to say so far in my experience. Yes, you can.” - Anthony Thilmony (Season 1: Episode 3 and Episode 4) “We’d field a lot of questions together, and you know what he didn’t know I’d know and vice versa and it just seemed like we got a good working relationship that way” - Tim Becker (Season 2: Episode 1) “I know farmers that have the attitude of, I’m not going to share with my neighbor, but I feel I’d teach everybody that you know because our neighbor is not the guy who is going to take us out in this whole game. It’s going to be something bigger like mother nature or the banker.” - Mark Olson (Season 2: Episode 8) “The important thing is that those three circles overlap and there’s interaction among those three groups that is I think really powerful and finding these transformational sort of solutions that we need in agriculture.” - Mark Liebig (Season 2: Episode 13 and Episode 14) “What you need to do is find the passionate people and get them to leave “me” at the door and get “we.” And we start doing things’s all about bringing interested people together and multiplying your effect.” - Brad Brummond (Season 2: Episode 12) Follow the link to participate in our next question and answer segment to share your questions and get them answered by the experts!
June 8, 2020
Measuring Soil Quality (Soil Health Dynamic Duo, Part 2)
We are back with Mark Liebig and Susan Samson-Liebig. In case you missed our last episode, they are two leading soil scientists of the USDA.  Mark works as a soil scientist within the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Susan works as a Soil Quality Specialist in the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). In this episode we focus on metrics of success for soil health. First, Mark defines soil quality through the lens of research on soil management. “I think of it often in the context of various soil functions; the ability to cycle nutrients, the ability to be a habitat for your soil biology, the ability to be able to take up water and retain it and move it through the soil matrix. It’s all based on soil function.” - Mark Liebig In regard to soil health, Susan adds that she focuses on the inherent properties and attributes that soil has that will “lend itself to be able to provide those functions that we need.” Both acknowledge that the terms soil health and soil quality is at times viewed as a distinction without a difference and that the semantics of the terms are not significant. To test and characterize the quality of the soil you are limited by the amount of time and money you want to invest. You can use a shovel and observe the “qualitative attributes” including tactile feel, the color, and the smell. You can also invest in a hydraulic sampler and send off samples for physical, chemical and biological analysis. Mark’s team has developed an easy-to-use soil quality kit to help make some of those decisions. The kit has been designed to measure some major soil health factors including infiltration of water, aggregate stability, pH and electrical conductivity. “(With) every sampling decision you’ve got to address those trade offs. What information do you want to get and what resources do you have to bring towards addressing those questions? And then find some sort of appropriate approach somewhere in the middle.” - Mark Liebig Susan and Mark have benefited from each other’s careers through the skill sets they both bring to the table. Susan gets to hear about the new up and coming research and Mark gets to hear about what research is needed within the industry. Both can return to their agencies and share their findings to better prepare and direct their efforts. As Susan talks with producers, she is noticing some trends in what the general public wants to know. Her observation shows the importance of the soil health discussion. “Another emerging topic that's really starting to take off here is this whole linkage between soil health, plant health, animal health and human health and trying to understand those linkages.” - Susan Samson-Liebig This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Susan Samson-Liebig and Mark Liebig, both soil scientists that contribute to the industry in two different USDA agencies Learn the definition of soil quality and soil health Explore different testing methods to evaluate soil health in the field and what metrics are most significant to look for Hear about the advantages they have found in their careers by collaborating their efforts Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
June 1, 2020
Soil Health Dynamic Duo, Part One: Cover Crops
Mark Liebig and Susan Samson-Liebig are two leading soil scientists that work in two different agencies within the USDA. Also, they just happen to be spouses. Mark works as a soil scientist within the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Susan works as a Soil Quality Specialist in the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). ARS is “focused on solving problems for producers” using science based research. NRCS has a “mission to protect the soil and water and all of the natural resources on the land” with methods in compliance with the farm bill. While these two agencies have different objectives they provide support to each other. “Where our agencies do work pretty close together is on this transfer of the research and then getting it into the hands of people to use.” -Susan Samson-Liebig Mark has been investigating the use of cover crops for 15 years. A significant factor he has observed in his studies is the effect a timely precipitation can have on the biomass produced. Different seeding times and intercropping practices are currently under investigation to find the best protocols to offer to farmers in the area. While he is encouraged by local farmers adopting some of these practices, he admits that there are endless iterations in cover crop planting for farmers to choose from. Because of this, Mark created a chart to help farmers navigate the many options and decisions required with cover crops based on the current recommendations. “The chart is our effort to provide a cool tool for producers in helping them to make their decisions on what cover crops they could choose or what mixtures they’d want to put together.” - Mark Liebig The chart was inspired by the periodic table and illustrates every iteration they have developed at this time. As this chart has been shared it has been expanded. Producers outside of North Dakota have reached out and asked for versions involving their climate and crop options. “You start there with the chart and you’ll learn a little bit more and then as you graduate then you can go to these other tools.” -Mark Liebig As transplants from Nebraska, they acknowledge the significant impact the soil health movement has made in North Dakota. Mark comments that the reason for this is that  “from the ground up, from the farmer level, there was just this inherent recognition that we have to protect these resources.” Susan agrees and adds that the people of North Dakota seem open and willing to try new practices and collaborate with researchers. “The solutions to problems are often better if you can get more input on how things can be solved.”  -Mark Liebig This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Susan Samson-Liebig and Mark Liebig, both soil scientists that contribute to the industry in two different USDA agencies Mark developed a chart to help farmers better understand cover crop options and easily see the current recommendations offered by ARS Susan works at the NRCS and engages producers to help them conserve their resources Click here to see the Cover Crop Chart  Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
May 25, 2020
Decades of Soil Health Collaboration
Brad Brummond joined the NDSU extension in 1982 and has been in his current position in Walsh County for 28 years. His body of work allowed him to be the first North Dakotan selected for the County Agricultural Agents Hall of Fame. Brad’s experience and knowledge are invaluable. He joins us today to share some of what he’s learned. Brad has made it his mission to not only get people involved in soil health practices but also to work together in doing so. “This can be done. This is very doable…..It’s fun. It’s exciting. It gets me up in the morning.” - Brad Brummond Brad’s career started in organic agriculture in the 1980’s. “Soil health was what we went after from a soil fertility standpoint in organic agriculture,” shares Brad. His own initiative that he has developed and used is called “Save the Five.” It operates under the assumption that there are at least 5 acres of unproductive farmland on most operations. Most often this is caused by sodicity or magnesium imbalances. The goal with “Save the Five” is to sample these areas, create a plan to regain the use of that land. “You can’t tell them. You have to show them. This is why our demonstration projects were so successful because they could go out and they could see it. We could put a shovel in the ground and we can show them the soil aggregates and the worms. What healthy soil looks like.” - Brad Brummond Brad found that one of the biggest barriers he needed to overcome was the concern for profitability with soil health practices. He was able to offer farmers interested in the program financial support in the form of money to “buy off the risk.” He wanted finances to not be the obstacle keeping farmers from proving these protocols. One thing he maintains and makes sure farmers understand before taking action is that soil health takes time to build. “The soils got to where they are over a long period of time and we’re not going to pull them out of it in one or two years….You have to be patient and you have to understand it didn’t get here overnight and it’s not leaving overnight.” - Brad Brummond Brad takes pride in the collaboration his team has been able to achieve.  He has cultivated a level of trust within Walsh County that brings all kinds of viewpoints and opinions together for healthy discussion.  Groups including NDSU, local producers, the Soil Conservation District and NRCS have come together to discuss different practices and possible outcomes. He encourages other counties to create the same collaborations. “This can be done ladies and gentleman. Our’s just happened. I think you could do it in a more deliberate manner.” - Brad Drummond This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Brad Brummond, NDSU Extension in Walsh County Learn what Walsh County has achieved with furthering the soil health discussion Explore the tips and tricks to creating collaborations across many organizations See the benefits of soil health practices on their operations Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
May 18, 2020
Soil Health and the City
Today we are joined by Sally Jacobson, Executive Director of the Red River Zoo, and Dr. Abbey Wick, Soil Health Extension Specialist. The unlikely collaboration between NDSU Extension and the Red River Zoo has led to an innovative outreach program telling the story of modern day agriculture. The Red River Zoo has had a longtime focus of “education through fun” with a focus on conservation and their zoo farm exhibit is no different. The zoo farm was due to be updated a few years ago with the focus being a “story that hasn’t been told” in modern agriculture. Enter Dr. Abbey Wick. A frequent visitor to the zoo, she saw this as an opportunity to help farmers with their “messaging to the public.” Sally welcomed her assistance to promote education and illustrate how farmers are “stewards of their land.” “From there it was just this really great partnership on what we could bring from the NDSU extension side and through connections that I have in agriculture through our commodity groups and through other industry people. And how it could really partner up with the conservation message of the zoo.” - Dr. Abbey Wick Precision agriculture, interactive farming equipment, drone capabilities and of course soil health are all on display for kids and adults alike to engage with and learn from. The “Agriculture Adventure Day” provides another opportunity for the public to get a hands on experience with agriculture including but not limited to a big worm bin and planting seeds. One of the highlights for Dr. Wick is allowing farmers to share their legacy with the public. “It just seemed like a great space to help farmers, not in their fields, but help them share their message about modern agriculture and sustainability and building soils and soil health.” - Dr. Abbey Wick This unlikely collaboration has sparked a conversation regarding outreach to the public by agriculture in the future. Sally recommends “looking at your language that you’re using and finding those common threads.” This brings the public in out of curiosity and leads to a fun, exciting and informative experience that everyone can enjoy. “It’s not about preaching to people…..but just to encourage people to explore and learn more and love the natural world. I think it’s critically important for us all as people.” - Sally Jacobson This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Sally Jacobson, Executive Director of the Red River Zoo Explore the unexpected collaboration between NDSU’s Extension and the Red River Zoo Learn effective and proven tips for how to communicate and spread awareness about agriculture with the public Visit Red River Zoo to see the Zoo Farm and share your story as part of the agriculture industry Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
May 11, 2020
A Soil Health Journey from Crops to Cattle
“I hope that we can just do so much more with an acre of land than just grow a crop on it.” -Mike Schaefer Mike Schaefer farms wheat, barley, corn and soybeans in New Rockford, North Dakota. His farm has been using soil friendly protocols for years and is now adding intermittent livestock grazing to his farm ground. Mike didn’t set out to follow the soil health movement. 10 years ago he had initially reduced his tillage out of a “shortage of manpower.” In 2016 a severe episode of wind erosion brought soil health and tillage efforts to the forefront. This “eye-opener” cemented his commitment to reducing tillage on his fields to hopefully prevent that from happening in the future. But a reduction in wind erosion has not been the only benefit to these new practices. “What I didn’t realize is how the water infiltration was actually really bad on our farm prior to no-till and just in three short years, that’s changed dramatically….we’ve really opened up the soil profile. We’ve got aggregate, we’ve got worms. Everything is coming alive and it’s faster than I thought it would.” - Mike Shaefer Two years ago, factors outside of Mike’s control once again presented Mike with an opportunity to try another technique on his farm, adding grazing livestock. His neighbor happened to be “short on pasture that year” and he allowed him to graze them on corn stocks that had been coverplanted. ”That seems to be the big X factor in soil health that everybody talks about is if you can get livestock out there, that is a huge benefit.” -Mike Schaefer The first year they had 120 steers on 120 acres. Mike plans on putting 150 head on the same 120 acres next year. He does admit that in the last 30 days “something out there changed” resulting in a reduced weight gain of the cattle. His presumption is that the “quality of what they were eating had dropped.” Next year they plan on top dressing the paddocks as the livestock are rotated around and supplementing their feed as needed. Mike is openly in a learning process to find the most effective way to run livestock on his fields and he is excited about next year's potential. This new technique is an attempt to “really change the biology of the soil” so as a bonus it also provides and supports another product, beef. “We see a lot of opportunity to make it even more profitable once the system gets tweaked a bit. I think it could be as good or better than growing a crop on it as far as cash flow and then you get all the benefits of it underground.” - Mike Schaefer This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Mike Schaefer Learn about Mike’s introduction into soil health practices  and how he has gradually made changes on his operation Explore the many benefits Mike has realized by increasing his no-till efforts and by introducing intermittent grazing livestock to his fields. Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
May 4, 2020
Intercropping and Soil Health
Could intercropping be a viable option for large-scale row crop producers? Lana Shaw, Research Manager at the Southeast Research Farm in Saskatchewan, and Dr. Mike Ostlie, a Research Agronomist at NDSU, join us today to tell us what we need to know about intercropping. Lana shares that at the most basic level “intercropping would be intentionally growing more than one species at a time in an agricultural situation.” “The main type of intercropping that I’ve been concentrating on is growing two grain crops simultaneously, and then separating the grain after it's harvested. So planting them together and harvesting them together.” -Lana Shaw This method is especially helpful in areas with a short growing season. Another benefit is the possibility of a synergistic relationship which may lead to higher yields, reduced disease and reduced insect damage. Lana further explains that “a lot of our pests are very nicely adapted to monoculture production systems.” So by growing more than one type of crop simultaneously it changes the environment to one they may not be as well suited for. “The whole goal is to be able to yield more per acre total product than you would with either crop alone.” -Dr. Mike Ostlie Logistically speaking, “sometimes there’s some compromises that you make on seeding depth or seeding dates” but this does not prohibit success. Lana highlights that regardless of what combination of crops you choose to employ you need to make sure the grains are easily separated so you don’t end up with a product you can’t market. Another consideration is adequately controlling your volunteer crops to avoid more than the planned number of crops in your end-product. “It’s not that Mike and I are that good at selling a strange idea. The reason this is popular and the reason why we keep getting asked to talk about this is because the farmers seem to be achieving greater overall profitability.” -Lana Shaw This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Lana Shaw and Dr. Mike Ostlie as they explain intercropping and its many applications Explore the anecdotal and compelling evidence of the benefits of intercropping from inputs to yields Learn the unique obstacles that must be overcome Discover why Lana says never underestimate a farmer Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
April 27, 2020
Strip-Till and Cover Crops
Today we are joined by Mark Olson, a farmer in Southeast North Dakota, and Matt Olson, an agronomist with 20 years of experience with Centrol Ag Consulting. The two bring interesting insights into their 20-year long relationship they have cultivated between farmer and agronomist. Their relationship started over questions about soil fertility and soil testing. “I learn a lot from my growers because a lot of my growers are very innovative and want to try new things.” - Matt Olson Matt admits that when Mark first discussed the introduction of cover crops he thought it might be “short-lived Hocus Pocus.” After 7-10 years of using cover crops he now happily admits he has been impressed with their effect and the dramatic increase in yields. Between cover crops and strip tilling Mark and Matt are exploring new techniques on many fronts. Mark refers to it as a “mindset” change that requires commitment. “I think we’ve got to keep learning and experimenting. I think that is the next key to getting more biology stimulated. We’re constantly learning.” - Mark Olson So how do they know their changes are leading towards success? In a word: yield. Their yields are increasing every year and placing Mark as one of the top of producers in his area. Mark’s operation has also realized a decrease in herbicide needs with the use of cover crops. Mark shares that “it’s not where you farm. You’ve just got to have an open mind.” For those interested in changing their protocols, Mark recommends starting with “small projects.” He also suggests talking to neighbors, asking lots of questions and of course always being open to learning something new. “Yields are increasing, getting better soil health, protecting the land. It's going very well.” - Matt Olson This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Mark Olson and Matt Olson, a farmer and agronomist that have worked together to increase yields on Mark’s farm with some new techniques Explore the dynamics of their relationship that has grown over many years Learn what cover crops and strip tilling has provided Mark’s farm and why he actively promotes its use Hear what Mark and Matt have in store for the future of Mark’s farm Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
April 20, 2020
Cover Crop Seed Considerations
Today we go back to the beginning of any soil health program - or any crop for that matter - seed. We are joined by Steve Zwinger who is an agronomist at NDSU’s Carrington Research Extension Center and Jason Goltz the Regulatory Manager for the North Dakota State Seed Department. Together we will explore and discover the value of seed selection and how seed labels need to be evaluated prior to making any purchases. Steve shares that, unlike other crops, cover crop success is not tied to a high grain yield. The focus for cover crops is a quick rate of maturity resulting in putting on biomass and providing shade. Cover crops are used to augment control of erosion and weed growth. The quicker it can get to maturity the quicker it can perform its roll in the soil. “Rye has been determined to be one of the number one cover crops used by farmers across the country….So one of the things I felt strongly about was the fact that we needed some pedigree or known variety, identity preserved seed out there.” - Steve Zwinger Steve is an advocate for certified or registered seed. Added regulation provides a standard of “higher quality seed such as germination, seedling vigor, and purity in terms of weed seeds and other things.” Having an identified variety will lead to better variety selection for example farmers in the north need to prioritize winter survivability in making their selection. Any number of goals could be focused on by the farmer to tailor the effect of the cover crop to the field it is planted in. Steve’s seed breeding work revolves around blending where varieties are blended together. He takes advantage of rye’s ability to be “constantly changing itself and adapting itself to the environment.” While Steve focuses on creating and certifying the variety seed purchased, Jason shares the requirements and regulations in seed.. "If it's going to be planted, it's a seed in state and federal law. Both say that all seed has to be labeled." - Jason Goltz Just because a crop is not harvested as in the case of the cover crops, does not mean it does not need to be clearly labeled. These labels should identify the type of seed, the quality of the seed and the amount and type of weeds potentially present. Also of great importance, seed has to be labeled for the state it is sold in to comply with local state laws. The significance of this is to avoid transmission of a prohibited noxious weed that may not be illegal in a different state. Visit to find answers to all of your questions regarding seed regulation. “Variety evaluation and development is a very important aspect in agriculture because it's probably the easiest decision a farmer can make before he enters the field that will have the largest impact on their production.” - Steve Zwinger This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Steve Zwinger and Jason Goltz as they describe the legality and importance of seed variety selection Explore the techniques used in seed selection Hear what items on the label are of the greatest significance to your operation Discover why rye is a favorite cover crop to use across the country Learn what you need to know before traveling out of state to purchase or sell seed Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
April 13, 2020
The Value of Livestock to Soil Health
Today we answer a popular question about soil health:. How does the farmer integrate cover crops and livestock? Dr. Kevin Sedivec joins us today to shed some light on this topic and show what can be done. Kevin is the Extension Rangeland Management Specialist with North Dakota State University and the Director of the Central Grasslands Research and Extension Center near Streeter, North Dakota. By trade Kevin is a range ecologist who focuses on “livestock production, wildlife management and reclamation.” He remarks that the “fundamental basis of all of our grasslands is still soils” which has led him to be more involved in the soil health movement. “The cover crop mixes we see today are very similar to the wildlife food plot mixes that are available to the public to buy.” - Dr. Kevin Sedivec While ranchers are of course most concerned about the nutrition for their cattle, farmers may be concerned about any downsides the cattle might cause on their fields. One major concern faced by farmers is in regard to compaction. Kevin tells us that fortunately in the north, the expansion of water particles with freezing will reduce any significant compaction and maintain a healthy soil consistency as long as cattle are removed before the freeze/thaw cycle occurs over winter. Another common concern for farmers is contamination of local water sources by runoff originating from the cattle. Fortunately there are established systems that can be used to keep this to a minimum and create some distance between the cattle and fresh water sources. “There’s a positive value for livestock in this industry, in our environment and of course in our food systems. And I think in terms of soil health, it's a great alternative.” - Dr. Kevin Sedivec Research projects are being proposed to better identify and quantify the benefits of this collaboration as well as the best cover crop combination for the livestock and soil. This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Dr. Kevin Sedivec, a rangeland ecologist, who shares the benefits of grazing cover crops Explore the biggest obstacles faced by those considering a collaboration between livestock and crop farming Learn the benefits provided to the cattle, the soil and the local wildlife Hear the common concerns held by farmers and ranchers alike Discover what new research is being carried out to better evaluate this collaboration Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
April 6, 2020
Measuring the Impact of Sharing Information about Soil Health
Today we explore the impact of sharing information. Are shared ideas spread the way we think? Jean Haley is responsible for answering that question for soil health at North Dakota State. She is joined by soil health extension specialist Dr. Abbey Wick to discuss the plans and impact of providing information on soil health. While profit driven businesses can measure income as a metric for success, projects with education goals require a different approach for evaluation. “What does success mean?” That is where Jean comes in. “I help programs get better at what they’re doing and provide data to their funders. That lets funders know what their return on investment is.” - Jean Haley Program evaluation is prominent in education and health and human services. Jean has expanded it into soil health. Her data shows what projects and education sharing efforts have been effective and how so. Jean creates “needs assessments” which allows for identification of end game goals for the evaluation. She then reaches for whatever tools would best achieve that end whether that be a survey, observation of conversations and interactions at events, or creating focus groups. According to Jean, with the advent of “Cafe Talks,” Dr Wick created a boundary organization. This allowed for “a conversation in real time” that she was then able to moderate and grow. By identifying the strength of this event, Dr Wick was then able to show the significance with data to those funding the lunches. “Here we have something that’s going to outlast everybody and it’s going to continue feeding on itself... It’s bigger than the individual. It’s about everybody that’s part of the network. I think funding sources really like hearing that because it (doesn’t) just end with this project.” - Dr. Abbey Wick One significant recommendation Jean has offered to the soil sense movement is to offer longer breaks during workshops. As opposed to the presumed “dead time” this may allow it fostered conversation which was the ultimate goal of the workshop and therefore provided a greater benefit than perpetual lecture. “We were so focused on the talks and the presentations and the content that we totally forgot about the fact that people like to just visit….They’re coming here to meet other farmers. They’re coming here to get ideas and to get inspired and it’s like we just extinguished all of that with content.” Dr. Wick credits Jean with shifting the focus from disseminating as much information as possible to providing quality programming to create the desired networking effect. This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Jean Haley and learn about her role in evaluation of NDSU’s Soil Science Program Discover what program evaluation is and the tools they employ Hear about the impact Jean has had on the program from Dr Abbey Wick Explore the benefits this provides to the program and by extension those that fund it Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
March 30, 2020
Farmers Supporting Each Other to Build Healthier Soils
Tyler Zimmerman and Chris Walberg share their journey towards soil health building practices on their farms. Tyler began learning about no-till practices and their benefits about 5 years ago. Over that time he has found support and many resources as he continues learning and executing soil health practices. “When you turn the soil up, there’s roots and worms and biology just going on in there that when you walk to the field next to you that has been conventionally tilled and you don’t find any of that….its night and day difference just across the road from one field to the next.” - Tyler Zimmerman Tyler shared his findings and experiences with his childhood friend, neighbor, and fellow farmer, Chris Walberg. Chris began to slowly “dabble” in no-till after seeing Tyler’s success and quickly found success of his own. “You have a success that you can keep building on. I guess that was kind of a bit of an eye opener for us, that no-till can work.” Chris Walberg Tyler found that one of the big challenges to no-till is that it requires a higher “patience level.” You need to be able to wait for the soil to be “the right temperature and dry” where as a  neighbor practicing tillage might not need to do the same. In order to further expand on their no-till practices Chris and Tyler collaborated to buy an air drill together. Both men have observed the soil health movement gain a lot of “momentum in the last few years” and are excited about what the future holds.  While not everyone is radically changing their practices to build healthier soils, “they are certainly hearing about it and reading about it.” Between sharing information, equipment and ideas, Tyler and Chris are looking forward to continuing the expansion of their soil health building efforts. This collaboration and comradery  has “made farming fun” for both and will likely continue to do so. This Week on Soil Sense: Meet farmers Tyler Zimmerman and Chris Walberg See how they were both introduced to no-till practices and the benefits they have observed Learn about their collaborative efforts and the benefits that has provided them Explore where their future efforts will lead them Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
March 23, 2020
Worms, Water, and Soil Health Research in Action
Today we focus on how agricultural research experiments actually happens in practice. Nate Derby and Rod Utter are both Research Specialists with North Dakota State University. Nate shares his experience with researching soil physics and the movement of water through the field. Rod Utter discusses his expertise from years of researching the life cycle and origin of earthworms. Both guests have done work with the SHARE (Soil Health and Agriculture Research Extension) Farm. While they mostly work on different projects, they bring a unique insight as those that are working with field scale ag research. While earthworms may not be considered an obvious top factor in farming production values, they provide far more benefit than composting and fish bait to the general public. Different species have adapted to different environments and different food sources making some more beneficial than others to farming especially in North Dakota. ”The earthworms themselves do a nice job. They create a lot of pore space for other organisms to go through, they turnover organic matter in the soil and on the surface they make nitrogen and phosphorus more available.” - Rod Utter Vast amounts of soil samples and water samples are collected to further evaluate the soil on the SHARE farm and how it is affected by different practices. While the main focus of Nate’s research has been on no-till practices, he has also been able to monitor salinity and the effects of adding tile drainage to limit the reach of the water table. “It just takes time. I think the longer you can monitor something like that, you’re going to continue to see changes.” - Nate Derby Nate and Rod are able to use each other’s findings to create a more comprehensive assessment of the soil health and the effects different practices have on it. They have verified that different salinity levels directly affect the worm populations and how quickly they can infiltrate a field and provide their benefit. “Related to worms on the SHARE Farm….they are moving in somewhat from the edges and that correlates pretty well with what we’ve been seeing with the salts on the surface.” -Nate Derby This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Nate Derby and Rod Utter, two scientists working on the SHARE Farm Learn the origin and benefits of earthworm populations in North Dakota See how different experiments are overlapping and creating a more cohesive understanding of soil health Explore the benefits of field-sized research and its more practical application as opposed to plot-sized Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
March 16, 2020
Soil Science 101 with Dr. Jay Goos
Dr. Jay Goos joins us from the department of soil science at North Dakota State University to share his approach to introducing soil science to his students and his experiences over the last four decades in the field. The overall curriculum of his course focuses on teaching the “main properties of soil” including acidity and alkalinity, concepts of wilting point, field capacity and “how the layers of the soil influences productivity.” He hopes that his students leave with an understanding of the soil health big picture. But beyond introducing and sharing the value of soil science with future generations and assisting agriculture with iron deficiencies in soybeans, Dr. Goos has also been a part of soil science for forty years. He has seen many trends, practices and concerns come and go and overall is happy to see all of the progress that has been made in regards to soil health.  He does want to call attention to phosphorus availability in the future due to limited sources and the chronic “mining (of) our soils for nutrients” without replacing the overall gross deficit. “Everyone is thinking about nitrogen now because of the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico and nitrates in rivers and streams. But Phosphorus is going to be moving up on the people’s radar over the next few decades.” - Dr. Jay Goos He comments that unfortunately something that has not changed in the last 40 years is that “farmers are still bombarded with snake oil products.” Dr. Goos encourages students and farmers to understand soil variability and learn about the many factors that influence overall soil health. He recommends reaching beyond “gizmos” when learning about precision agriculture and focus more on what causes field variation and how we can best manage it. This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Dr. Jay Goos Hear about the introduction to soil science course he teaches at NDSU Discover his impact on iron deficiency chlorosis in soybeans Learn from the experiences he has had over the last 40 years in soil science and the issues he sees on the horizon Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
March 9, 2020
Soil Health Collaboration Between Ag Retail and Extension
In this episode we focus on the unlikely collaboration between extension and ag retail. Tim Becker joins us as a former county extension agent and long time farmer of Eddy County along with Jason Vollmer, a farmer and local agronomist for Allied Agronomy. Both have found real interest in coming together to promote soil health. Their partnership started as organically as could be imagined “over a cup of coffee.” A group of farmers would meet to discuss techniques and ask questions. These meetings “grew into a good relationship” resulting in an ideal collaboration. Both men acknowledge that making a sale is not the end goal so much as helping the farmer be as profitable as possible. “We found that we can fight each other for clientele and programming….or we can work together and make a total program better.” - Tim Becker Tim and Jason agree that “every farmer is a great steward of the land” and recognize as well as understand that “ground is their asset, their life, their lifeblood.” This compassion and understanding has allowed for the opportunity to campaign and illustrate the benefits for soil health programs. They combine research with available products to create the best individualized plan for each client they interact with. “Ag is always evolving and we have to have a futuristic look while being grounded in the present.” Jason Vollmer This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Tim Becker and Jason Vollmer Learn how their unlikely collaboration resulted in better information and learning for the farmers they helped Discover how they both leaned on each other’s strengths through discussion and education Listen to Tim and Jason discussing the biggest obstacles they see farmers facing in regards to soil health Explore how livestock may be the next adjunct to crop farming Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
March 2, 2020
[Bonus Episode] Decades of Building Soil Health with Joe Breker
Joe Breker has been farming for over 40 years pioneering soil health building practices in southeast North Dakota. With his skills and knowledge, Joe managed to successfully operate his farm during the dry ‘80s and wet ‘90s, as well as each decade’s poor farm economy. Joe joins me today to describe how his conservative farming practices have improved their farm’s soil health. He shares how his father was a sustainable farmer and what he did to build on what his father started. He also describes what no-till farming is, how it helps to restore damaged soil and explains the science behind management practices and how it affects soil health for decades. “Once you lose soil health, it's really difficult to get it back." - Joe Breker This Week on Soil Sense: The farming legacy Joe is a part of and how his father ran the farm. What no-till farming is and what made him utilize this method. How he started his journey in soil health. Maintaining commitment to soil health despite poor farming business conditions. How he processes their compost and the processes involved. Building soil health and how they nurse damaged soil back to health. Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
October 31, 2019
SHARE Farm Reflections and Insights
In this episode we explore the SHARE (Soil Health and Agriculture Research Extension) Farm Project. It is a field scale location used to display practices that the research is indicating to advance soil health. The program showcases rotations and practices that can be used in the local area to advance soil health. The North Dakota Corn Council and other commodity groups have funded the SHARE farm to take advantage of an opportunity to further promote soil health in North Dakota. The North Dakota Corn Council’s main objectives are to provide funding for “research, education, promotion and market development of corn in North Dakota” and the SHARE farm program fits that bill. The SHARE farm has “consistently been (their) number one project.” “The SHARE Farm Project is actually pretty unique. It’s a farmer driven project….It came about from Farmers wanting a place or field that they could drive by and see these soil health building practices at field scale for long-term within the rotations that they’re using. They wanted something that was theirs.” - Dr Abby Wick (NDSU Extension) “This was research that was actually being conveyed to our farmers and they were eating it up. They loved it…..It was just really great to see farmers talking to other farmers. Farmers acting as mentors to younger farmers and teaching them what they have learned over 20-30 years.” - Jean Henning (Executive Director of North Dakota Corn Council) “I think people are pretty impressed with what they see there….I think we’ve proven that we can no-till in heavy soils. I had one farmer say “You’re going to no-till out their right? So you can prove it doesn’t work in these soils.” I said, “yeah or prove that it does.” I think we proved that much” - Ken Johnson (Farmer with the first SHARE Farm) This Week on Soil Sense: Discover what a SHARE farm is and the soil health practices it puts on display Hear from Ken Johnson, the first farmer to participate in the SHARE farm program Learn about the North Dakota Corn Council and its purpose See the change in information sharing  the SHARE farm has afforded the farmers of North Dakota Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
October 24, 2019
Managing Salts with Allie Slykerman
Today we hear from Allie Slykerman. Allie works as an independent crop consultant at Centrol Ag Consulting. One of the most significant issues faced by North Dakota farmers is salinity management. The primary crop struggles to grow in these areas resulting in opportunist weeds gaining a foothold in the field. Possible management practices include using salt tolerant plants for cover and assisting the soil in moving the water through the soil profile via tile. Depending on the location and salinity levels these options may not be available. The effort then becomes to try to limit the saline spots spread to reduce lost ground. Allie says one of the biggest concerns she gets approached about is weed resistance. She discusses the challenges faced by farmers and the progression of resistance she has observed. Roundup is no longer a “silver-bullet” for all things weeds. She shares different recommendations she has made in the last year to mitigate this growing threat. “Our chemistry is still working but I think in the future we need to start considering the what if’s….We really have to start being really careful and protecting these chemistries and start to think outside the box and using all the tools in the toolbox.” - Allie Slykerman “Figuring out how these guys tick is one of my favorite aspects of the job and getting to work with all different sorts of personalities is one of the most interesting things I think a crop consultant deals with on a day-to-day basis.” - Allie Slykerman This Week on Soil Sense: Allie Slykerman shares the most significant issue she sees with her clients Learn the different techniques available to battle salinity issues Allie shares her concern for weed herbicide tolerance Explore the relationship between a crop consultant and their client farmers Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
October 17, 2019
Integrating Cattle and Cover Crops with Luke Ressler
What can integrating livestock do for soil health? Luke Ressler joins us from Hillsboro, North Dakota where he farms with his father-in-law, Randy Lemm, and his wife Elli. Luke was raised on a farm in Cooperstown and worked for the NDSU Extension and Dr. Abbey Wick after completing his studies at NDSU.  Luke was able to participate and host some of the Cafe Talks Abbey organized while working there. Luke shares the rotational grazing pattern he is using for his cattle. The biggest obstacle for them in using this technique is providing access to fresh water every day.  The goal of this process is to gain the benefit of the cover crop for the soil and then convert that growth into nutrition for the cattle which will add manure back to the soil to further fortify it and reduce the time spent in the feedlot for the cattle. We check in with Luke to see his experiences between the original interview in June 2019 to today (October 2019). Spoiler: it’s been a tough year weather-wise. “My goal is to always try to go to as many field days and events that NDSU puts on as possible because you’re going to learn something new every time you go and meet someone new.” - Luke Ressler “Research is helping out a lot of guys who don’t know where to go, who don’t have good resources available to them. They can go online and get really good information especially from NDSU. I have nothing but good to say about it and I’m really excited to be involved more.” - Luke Ressler This Week on Soil Sense: Luke Ressler introduces us to incorporating cattle into your soil health practices Learn the benefits to the soil and cattle when combined as part of your land management Feel Luke’s excitement to be involved with upcoming research Explore Luke’s process to getting answers when questions arise with his new practices Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
October 10, 2019
Soil Physics and Soil Biology with Dr. Aaron Daigh
Explore the scientific principles forming the foundation of soil health. Dr. Aaron Daigh of North Dakota State University joins us to discuss the impact of movement and distribution of water, heat, and nutrients in the soil. Dr Daigh draws an analogy between pores in the soil and plumbing in a building. Through the natural processes of freezing, wetting, drying, and thawing pores are developed in the soil. These pores are crucial to nutrient and water retention. He shares the effect that tillage practices have on heat transfer and retention within the soil as well as to the pore size and distribution. Understanding these scientific principles can lead to more informed decisions on farming practices. Dr. Daigh shares the ongoing research in this field and where the focus is shifting. “It’s kind of like taking all the piping in your house or the building or in a chemical plant and rearranging it to the way that you want…..When you go in and you till a soil you are kind of homogenizing everything. You’re making all the pipes kind of very similar to each other at least in the depth that you’re tilling at.” - Dr. Aaron Daigh “When you go into a no-till or reduced till system…. you have a whole bunch of small pores and those pores are what can really hold onto water longer. They can hold onto nutrients longer and keep it available in a spot that the plant can use later on.”  - Dr. Aaron Daigh This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Dr. Aaron Daigh and learn what it means to be a soil physicist Explore how tillage disrupts the natural pores in the soil and affects the movement of water and nutrients Dr. Daigh teaches us how the different sized pores are developed in the soil and the benefits they provide. Discover the up and coming research in the area of Soil Science Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
October 3, 2019
Building Soil Health on Your Toughest Field with Doug Toussaint
Doug Toussaint from Wahpeton, North Dakota discusses his shift toward soil health building practices. Doug shares what inspired him to make these changes and the decision to start with his most difficult field. Doug was able to slowly integrate these new techniques including inter-seeding and reduced tillage by using equipment that he already had on hand. He has noticed a significant difference in his fields with “how different they worked (and) how much easier they were to plant.” Doug shares that going to seminars, talking to other farmers and reaching out to consultants and the extension have all helped him find the answers and learn about new practices. He emphasizes the importance of networking with neighboring farmers and helping to foster the discussion about reduced tillage and cover crops. “Cover crops is not where to quit spending money….I’d rather have a cover crop that failed than a cover crop that I didn’t do.” -Doug Toussaint “There isn’t a recipe here. You’re going to put your own recipe together and how its going to work. You just have to be open-minded and look at different things and be willing to change immediately.” - Doug Toussaint This Week on Soil Sense: ● Hear from Doug Toussaint a Farmer in North Dakota ● Learn what inspired him to experiment with new farming techniques ● Meet the difficult field he started with and why he started there ● Explore some of the benefits Doug has experienced by adding cover crops to his rotation ● Doug shares what resources he reaches for to help answer his questions as they arise Connect with Soil Sense: ● Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
September 26, 2019
Salinity & Sodicity Issues with Naeem Kalwar of NDSU Extension
Naeem Kalwar is an extension Soil Health Specialist in the Langdon Research Extension Center. His expertise is shared today in facing sodicity and salinity issues in your soils. The term salinity refers to the potential for high salt levels in the soil which can decrease water absorption at the root-level resulting in drought stressed crops. Fortunately salinity does not affect soil structure allowing for the smooth movement of water and air through the soil despite the increased salt content. Good drainage and improved soil water infiltration can help manage salinity concerns. Sodicity, on the other hand, creates an issue that is not as easy to correct. With sodicity, a bond between the sodium molecules and the clay is formed. This directly affects the ability of the water to move through the soil as it will settle in dense layers. With an increase in sodicity you will also have a higher retention of salt resulting in increased salinity.  Amendments like gypsum are required to increase the aggregation and good structure of the soil in order to compensate for the structural changes caused by sodicity. “Our groundwater has very high salt levels, plus sodium. And this sodium i’m talking about is not presented as salt. This sodium gets attracted to the negative charges of clay and hummus soil particles, and causes sodicity or the breakdown of soil we have two different problems: salt and sodicity.” - Naeem Kalwar This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Naeem Kalwar an extension Soil Health Specialist Explore the differences between soils in different regions Learn about the significance of salinity and sodicity in a soil’s health Discover how to identify and address these concerns Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
September 19, 2019
Improving Soil Health Over Generations with Lee Trautman
Lee Trautman joins us today. Lee farms corn and soybeans in Jamestown, North Dakota with his brother and father. Trautman Farms has been no till for over 20 years giving Lee a unique farming experience of very limited tillage. The EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program) introduced the idea of cover crops to Trautman Farms. The cover crops they initially chose were based on what seed they had available. Now Lee employs rye and has found that it “fits the bill” for their operation and assists with weed suppression and water consumption. Lee discusses the significant impact his practices have had on his farm and the conversations it has inspired with his neighbors and landlords. “That's what really gets you is when you get somebody who's not around every day or  that sees it every day or maybe has never seen a no-till field. And  they come out and they just can't stop saying good things about your soils. That really means a lot to me.” -Lee Trautman “Sometimes you can just go out in a field and and stick a shovel in the ground and just be like, yes, this is a good piece of ground. And I can do that in all of my fields. I can stick a shovel in the ground and there's always worms. There's good aggregation. There’s structure. There's lots of organic matter. It's just a beautiful piece of ground most of the time. And just knowing that we've helped create that and kind of keep it established that way so…..hopefully the next generation can enjoy it and keep improving it.” -Lee Trautman This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Lee Trautman, a farmer in Jamestown, North Dakota Hear how Trautman Farms manage their farm with three family members running different parts of the operation Explore what program introduced Trautman Farms to cover crops Learn how Lee manages the use of rye and is able to replenish his seed every year Discover what healthy soils means to Lee and how he can demonstrate their vitality on his farm Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
September 12, 2019
Cover Crops with Dr. Marisol Berti
Dr. Marisol Berti spearheads research in the use of cover crops as a professor in the Plant Sciences Department at North Dakota State University. Her most recent projects are focused on cover crops and their uses with crops outside of the more traditional corn and soybean rotations. Among her many successes in this field, her team has also developed a specific planter to better plant a cover crop and beat the oncoming winter. Dr. Berti shares that the hallmark of using cover crops is the benefit of “protecting the soil.” She admits there is a risk with cover crops as there is with any crop when the weather does not support the seed’s growth. The difference with cover crops is that they are not insured, which leads to a total economic loss if the crop is not successful. Dr. Berti discusses the use of Camelina as a broad leaf cover crop and the benefits to its use. As of yet it has not been broadly used but shows great potential. The biggest obstacle she faces is not in its use but in its marketability to create another source of income for the farmer. There is currently a lot of interest in it as a source for Omega-3 Fatty Acids for human consumption but no clear market in the United States.  If a market develops the use of Camelina will not only be beneficial to soil health but also create additional income for the farmer which would help offset its risk. “If you go in a Corn-Soybean rotation with no cover crops the soil is almost like a parking lot. There is nothing. There is no life. You can dig and dig and there’s not one worm. I go to a farm that has had cover crops for 10 years and he puts his shovel no matter where and he gets a bunch of worms.” Dr. Marisol Berti This Week on Soil Sense: Explore the practice of adding cover crops Meet Dr. Berti, a cover crop expert and Professor at North Dakota State University Discover the use, benefit and obstacles in using Camelina as a cover crop Dr. Berti shares the common pitfalls faced by farmers trying to start the use of cover crops Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
September 5, 2019
Taking Off with Soil Health with Matt Nelson
Matt Nelson shares his experiences from his farm in Lakota, North Dakota where they produce small grains, wheat, barley, canola, soybeans, corn and edible beans. While Matt grew up on the farm, he spent the first 15-16 years of his career as a commercial pilot which has influenced his approach to farming. Matt shares the challenges and benefits that come with adopting reduced tillage practices. Another obstacle Matt faces are saline soils that have become more apparent with frequent rainfall. Matt shares his approach to implementing new techniques and what factors create the most viable options for his operation. “Ask your neighbors. Ask your friends. Ask the guys who have been farming for a long time. What's worked for you? What do you see? Are there certain times or certain practices you see that work better or have a negative effect on what you're doing?” Matt Nelson This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Matt Nelson Learn what drew him away from his job as an airline pilot towards being a full-time farmer Discover what are the biggest changes Matt has made to his farming operation Explore the effects of a multi-year wet period and what adjustments needed to be made Matt shares how he evaluates new techniques and what he looks for in choosing which to implement Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
August 29, 2019
Lessons from 20 Years of Crop Consulting with Dr. Lee Briese
Dr. Lee Briese is a Crop Consultant with Centrol Crop Consulting. He does not sell any products but rather solely focuses on helping farmers make the best decisions for their crops and soils. Dr. Briese checks every field weekly which creates a comprehensive understanding of the individual farmer’s goals, their assets and their obstacles to reaching those goals.  He estimates he has covered over a million acres with his crop consulting resulting in a wealth of knowledge and experience. “There’s no one (size) fits all for anybody,” says Dr. Briese. We learn how many factors play into the recommendations he makes and the timing of the alternative techniques he suggests. “There has to be a distinct level of trust between (the farmers) and I as far as the information I’m giving them, that not only applies to them but is solid information.” Dr. Lee Briese. This Week on Soil Sense: Introduction to Dr Lee Briese, a crop consultant with Centrol Crop Consulting Dr Briese discusses his approach to introducing new techniques Learn how information is shared between farms Discover why farmers in North Dakota use a lower rate of herbicide application and what the consequences are in regards to herbicide resistance Listen to the many factors taken into account prior to making any recommendations Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
August 22, 2019
Challenges of Building Soil Health in Cool and Wet Climates with Sam Landman
Sam Landman is a fifth generation farmer who manages not only his family farm but also a SHARE (Soil Health and Agriculture Research Extension) Farm. He discusses how his techniques have evolved and how that has impacted his crop rotations and equipment choices. Challenging effective practices for better sustainability and soil health is an uphill battle but Sam is already seeing the benefits.  “I think the long-term benefits will be there for sure. But you know we’re always up against short-term economics anytime you’re transitioning to a new practice.” Sam is perpetually researching and networking to gain as much knowledge as possible. He wants to make the most informed decisions he can. If someone is interested in trying some of these new practices, Sam recommends reaching out and asking questions. Dr. Abby Wick and the rest of the extension have been great resources for him. He also suggests experimenting with some smaller fields first to find the best fit for your operation. “I like seeing green out there. I like seeing living biology out there. When you start digging around in the ground, you start seeing the soil come alive because of the living root out there. It's just kind of an addiction. Once you start it and you start seeing the benefits you want to keep trying it and do more and more.” -Sam Landman This Week on Soil Sense: Meet Sam Landman and hear his story farming in North Dakota Discuss transitioning to reduced tillage practices Explore new soil handling techniques and the effect that has had on Sam’s farm Learn about the challenges faced by those changing farming protocols Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative  Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
August 15, 2019
Precision Ag for Healthier Soils with Anthony Thilmony and Dr. Dave Franzen
This is the second installment of a two part interview with Dr. Dave Franzen, a soil scientist at North Dakota State University, and Anthony Thilmony, a fourth generation farmer in the Valley City, North Dakota area. In this segment we will be focusing on the precision of soil health. We explore how to identify your individual soil needs and how to effectively and efficiently meet those demands. “The Zone Sampling Concept is the number one site specific nutrient management strategy in the state. I wish more people would do it .” -Dr. Dave Franzen “I had a goal. I didn’t go from here to there. I went five steps in between.” - Anthony Thilmony This Week on Soil Sense: Learn about the development of zone sampling  Discover the benefits and philosophy behind variable rate fertilization application Converting to various precision ag techniques requires a financial and time commitment What factors influence the decision to try a new technique or add new technology Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative  Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
August 8, 2019
Soil Fertility with Dr. Dave Franzen and Anthony Thilmony
Join us for the first installment of a two-part interview with Dr. Dave Franzen, a Soil Scientist at North Dakota State University in Extension, and Anthony Thilmony, a fourth generation farmer in the Valley City, North Dakota area. These two have collaborated for many years through discussion and trials. Today we explore soil fertility and the effect of a no-till strategy. We learn about some of the benefits including a decreased nitrogen need and increased microorganism activity to name two.  “In order to get somebody to change the way they’re doing things you either have to have an economic tag or an emotional tag.” -Dr. Dave Franzen “My goal is when I quit farming everything is going to be in better shape than I got it and that's what drives me with the no-till.” - Anthony Thilmony This Week on Soil Sense: Discover how Dr Franzen and Anthony began to collaborate Learn about soil loss in North Dakota over the last 100 years Hear about the benefits of performing research on commercial farms  What the advantages are of having a no-till field  Who the “Beach Boys’ of North Dakota are and what they have accomplished Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative  Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
August 1, 2019
Soil Health Systems on the Farm
Ride along with fourth generation farmer Tony Wagner in Jamestown, South Dakota. Farming has been a lifelong passion for Tony. He took on his first field in the eighth grade and after pursuing college returned to the area to help manage his family’s operation. He has experimented with different cover crops for different fields in order to better the soil he has access to. He joins us today to share his excitement for implementing new techniques and the drastic effect it has had on the quality of his soil.  “You have one shot a year to do this and then you have to wait the whole entire year for it to come around. And that's kind of what honestly really keeps me interested in it…..There's just so many things to do from preparation for equipment in the winter time to all of a sudden you're planting and then from planting you're going on to spraying and then from spraying it starts leading into harvest and next thing you know, the leaves are falling off the tree….. I like working with fields and soil and just anything that I could do to improve our farm.” - Tony Wagner  This Week on Soil Sense: Hear about the heritage associated with the Wagner Farm Learn about the new techniques Tony has implemented The effects rotating cover crops have had on the quality of the soil The collaboration of farmers and extension agents to learn and improve Connect with Soil Sense: Soil Sense Initiative  Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
August 1, 2019
Setting the Stage for Soil Health in North Dakota
Dr. Abbey Wick is an Extension Soil Health Specialist at North Dakota State University. She joins us to share what her role is in promoting soil health in North Dakota. Dr. Wick works primarily with farmers but also coordinates county extension agents and other educators to share what new research indicates with regards to enriching the health of the soil. She encourages networking between all factions of agriculture to best help the farmer in their pursuit of a high quality yield. Her Cafe Talks have become a welcomed forum for farmers to receive, engage with and implement new practices that work best for their individual needs. “Every year is different...that makes it a lifelong pursuit, makes it an awareness that you have to have of your system.” - Dr. Abbey Wick This Week on Soil Sense: How North Dakota coordinates efforts to disseminate information What soil health means to her as a soil scientist What are the obstacles she must overcome to get new ideas and research accepted Why Soil Health does not lend itself to a “one size fits all”  prescription service What happens when she doesn’t know the answer to a farmer’s questions. What is a S.H.A.R.E. Farm Connect with Dr. Abbey Wick: Email Soil Sense Initiative  Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
July 29, 2019