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Published September 10, 2013, 09:15 AM

Free soil testing at Big Iron

North Dakota State University Extension Service soil health specialists will test producers’ soil for salinity on Sept. 11 at the Big Iron farm show at the West Fargo, N.D., Fairgrounds.

By: NDSU Extension Service,

North Dakota State University Extension Service soil health specialists will test producers’ soil for salinity on Sept. 11 at the Big Iron farm show at the West Fargo, N.D., Fairgrounds.

Producers can bring a soil sample to the NDSU Extension table for the free test.

“Salts are native to North Dakota’s glaciated mineralogy,” says Chris Augustin, area Extension soil health specialist at NDSU’s North Central Research Extension Center near Minot. “The past 20 or so wet years have moved these minerals to the topsoil. Water then evaporates, leaves salts behind and creates the white spots that reduce crop yields.

“Salinity management is water management,” he adds. “We need to dry down soils so salts move below the root zone. Farming practices that do this include cover cropping, perennial cropping, no-tilling and subsurface drainage.”

To provide soil for the test, farmers should take samples from several spots in a field, mix the soil and take a sample of the mixture. That sample should contain about a cup of soil.

Place the sample in a small dish on a sunny windowsill for a few days to allow the sample to dry. Then place the sample in a zip-top plastic bag and bring it to Big Iron.

“The test will take only a few minutes,” Augustin says. “We see white scars across North Dakota and know that salts are lowering crop yields. We hope this quick test gives our farmers an idea of how bad it is and that they know we are here to help them fix these issues.”

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