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Published February 10, 2014, 09:58 AM

ND research farm marks anniversary

Ed Hauf remembers when most farmers in his part of the world grew only wheat and barley. He also remembers when most crop rotations there included summer fallow, or keeping a field out of production, generally one year in three.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

Ed Hauf remembers when most farmers in his part of the world grew only wheat and barley. He also remembers when most crop rotations there included summer fallow, or keeping a field out of production, generally one year in three.

Today, producers in western North Dakota grow a wide range of crops and summer fallow is rare, says Hauf, a retired Max, N.D., farmer.

Some of the credit goes to research at the Area 4 SCD Cooperative Research Farm in Mandan, N.D., says Hauf, one of the research farm county supervisors.

Soil conservation districts in 11 western North Dakota counties participate in the research farm. They are McIntosh, Logan, Emmons, Sioux, Morton, Burleigh, Kidder, Stutsman, Sheridan, McLean and Oliver. McLean has two separate soil conservation districts, which accounts for the 12th district involved with the research farm.

Hauf is the West McLean Soil Conservation District supervisor.

Since 1984, the soil conservation districts have worked with scientists at the nearby Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service.

The research laboratory, which celebrated its 100th anniversary two years ago, was profiled in a July 9, 2012, Agweek cover story.

At the research farm, scientists work on field-sized research into issues such as water conservation, soil erosion and conservation tillage systems.

Conference

The research farm, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, will hold its annual Research Results Conference March 3 at the Seven Seas Conference Center in Mandan The event begins with a free noon lunch.

Soil conservation district officials and scientists at the Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory will discuss their work in the past year. The conference also will include a look at the research farm’s 30-year history.

Don Tanaka, a retired soil scientist at the research laboratory, is familiar with the work at the research farm. He’ll talk at the conference about the research farm’s accomplishments through the years.

Tanaka sees a number of areas in which the collaboration between the soil conservation districts and Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory has helped farmers and ranchers.

Those areas include:

• “Developing principles that allowed northern Great Plains family farmers to utilize 100 percent of their crop production acres for cropping. As a result of this research, northern Great Plains farmers have reduced fallow acres by over 90 percent (through the) use of no-till, ceasing fall tillage and planning crop sequences by considering crop moisture use and soil moisture conservation.”

• “Learning the significant impact a preceding crop can have on the subsequent crop in this semi-arid northern region.”

• “This region is the major hard red spring wheat growing area of the United States, but the plant’s physiology and response to nutrient application was not understood. Research from 1987 to 1990 provided the answers. … Today, crop consultants, extension agents and custom applicators throughout the region use their results to guide recommendations for foliar feeding to optimize hard red spring wheat and protein content.”

• Work on the research farm in the 1980s “focused extensively on understanding soil erosion and determining the value of soil conservation methods. In 1991, scientists at the Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory were able to compute the financial cost of soil loss by calculating the value of lost productivity due to depleted soil organic matter. When considered a quantifiable expense, family farmers throughout the northern Great Plains intensified resources to significantly reduce the impact of wind and water erosion and the financial erosion of their farm.”

Hauf, who still lives on the farm on which he was born, says the Mandan research farm continues to have an important role.

“Farming is just so different today. There are new ways of doing things — and that research has helped,” he says.

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