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Justin Zahradka, a student from NDSU, stands inside the cattle pen on his family farm in Lawton, N.D., on Dec. 28, 2015. (Nick Nelson/Agweek)(Embargoed until January 5, 2016)

Zahradka to speak on cover crops at national conference

LAWTON, N.D. — Justin Zahradka knows a lot about cover crops. He'll share that knowledge at an upcoming national conference.

"Interest really seems to be picking up in the past few years. More people are realizing cover crops can have a place on their farm, says Zahrada, a young Lawton, N.D., farmer and rancher and North Dakota State University graduate who began working with cover crops when he was an FFA member.

Zahradka will be one of about 40 speakers at the second National Conference on Cover Crops and Soil Health in Indianapolis Dec. 7-8. The event, organized by the Soil and Water Conservation Society, will examine recent developments in how innovative farmers nationwide are using cover crops to improve soil health.

The conference is held every three or four years. More than 300 people attended the first conference, held in 2014 in Omaha, Neb.

"We encourage people to attend (the Indianapolis conference). There have been a lot of developments since the first one," says Karl Hoppe, co-coordinator of the North Dakota Sustainable Agriculture and Research Education, or SARE, program. SARE is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

This year's 1½-day conference features farmers, conservation leaders and scientists who will pay particular attention to the following topics:

• "Planting green," or planting commodity crops into living green cover crops before termination of the cover.

• Adjusting nutrient management when using covers.

• Best strategies and timing for terminating cover crops.

• Grazing approaches for cover crops.

• Using cover crops as part of a strategy for controlling herbicide-resistant weeds.

• The latest insights into soil health testing and soil biology.

Zahradka's experience with cover crops began with a 40-acre cover crop demonstration trial in North Dakota's Walsh County. His efforts have led to him to receive the FFA American Star in Agriscience and the 2017 Soil and Water Conservation Society Honor Award, among other awards and honors.

Anyone interested in cover crops and soil health should consider attending the Indianapolis conference, he says.

"It will be a great opportunity to learn more," Zahradka says.

There's a fee to attend.

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