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Published December 19, 2011, 05:06 PM

Asking for answers: Board gets input on ag research priorities

The North Dakota State Board of Agricultural Research and Education recently got input from groups about ag research priorities

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

FARGO, N.D. — Answers.

That’s what commodity groups want from North Dakota State University’s agricultural researchers, and this is the time they are approaching the North Dakota State Board of Agricultural Research and Education (SBARE) to begin a filtering process for research priorities.

NDSU department heads and commodity group leaders have been offering input on research priorities to SBARE, which, in turn, passes on the priorities to the North Dakota Legislature for funding. The Dec. 9 meeting included commodity group presentations, with SBARE-included announcements of changes in NDSU agricultural administration leadership — the retirement and replacement for Extension Service Director Duane Hauck, and the consolidation of administrative positions.

On Dec. 8, NDSU President Dean Bresciani announced to SBARE that Ken Grafton would be the permanent vice president, along with being dean of the college of agriculture and director of the experiment station. This returns to a management model that was in place when Patricia Jensen was vice president from 1997 to 2004, when SBARE was a new entity.

SBARE works with NDSU ag administration to provide a synchronized message on ag priorities to the Legislature.

Among a parade of research requestors before SBARE was Jeff Hamre, executive director of the North Dakota Soybean Growers Association, asking NDSU to hire a nematologist.

Hamre said state soybean growers want to prevent infestations similar to a large area in central Minnesota, where producers must plant cyst-resistant soybeans to grow the crop. “You sell very few conventional beans down in that area, but all of that area is tiled, too. So, is this helping (soybean cyst nematode) transmitting? I hope not. I don’t see how it can, except maybe it’s getting washed through in the water.”

Farmers in the heavily infested area of Minnesota must grow either the PI 8878 or the Peking breeding sources, or not at all. Agvise Laboratories, with offices in Northwood, N.D., and Benson, Minn., and others have been monitoring soybean cyst nematode egg levels. Sam Markell from North Dakota State University is looking at the issue, as well, taking soil samples to see how many live eggs are in the soil, but could use some help, Hamre told the SBARE members.

Dealing with drainage

Hamre said soybean growers have a new concern about whether field drainage may have an impact on the spread of soybean cyst nematodes. Soybean group leaders attended a recent meeting in Moorhead, Minn., with officials from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, talking about tile drainage in fields — how it can either help or hinder — production and the environment.

“This is just an observation from one very large farmer that’s done a lot of research on his own farm, on just how good tiling is. But the farmer also just doesn’t put soybeans on these fields that are tiled,” Hamre says.

“I firmly believe that tile drainage in my area is working well,” Hamre emphasized, saying that it reduces soil salts and water levels. Hamre noted that NDSU and the U.S. Geological Survey are monitoring the groundwater coming through the tile at a farm near where Hamre lives, checking for chemical and fertilizer content, among other things.

“But at our meeting, we had a gentleman from central Minnesota, who says he’s seen more cyst pressure from fields that are (tile) drained. That makes no sense to me because the cyst is such a small worm — it only moves probably an inch a year, unless it’s moved mechanically — either by tillage equipment, or geese that move it on their feet, wings or mouth. “Most of the time it’s a mechanical thing, with implements,” Hamre says.

Hamre added that cysts don’t like to be in water. “If we could have a nematologist who could study this, and actually see how it could move it — maybe, just down the tile, into the retention area, or if it could move across into the ‘manifold’ systems that are in the tiling. This is all theory.”

Tom Borgen of Langdon, N.D., a member of SBARE, and representing the Northern Canola Growers Association, said the process works well for ranking, scoring and recommending.

“It’s a great system. We hear from President Bresciani and Vice President Ken Grafton that hardly any other states go through this process.” In the past two legislative sessions the North Dakota governor has looked at the SBARE priorities and has largely followed it.

“We’re the group,” Borgen says of SBARE’s role.

Crop cooperation

One of the issues facing SBARE was is research support in determining whether canola can rotate with sugar beets. This is important with regard to glyphosate resistance. Some 60 to 70 percent of the canola currently grown is glyphosate resistant. Canola acreage is strong across the northern tier counties in the state. The heaviest growing area turns at Devils Lake and goes southwest and up through Minot as well. “Now with the crushing plant going in at Hallock, that’s closer to that sugar beet growing area,” Borgen says.

Neil C. Juhnke, chief executive officer Northstar Agri-Industries, the crushing plant under construction at Hallock, Minn., previously worked with American Crystal Sugar Co., so has talked to agronomists there. “We have a dialogue going on,” Borgen says. Northern Canola growers have started funding research to determine whether it’s a viable crop in rotation with sugar beets.