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Published April 17, 2010, 12:00 AM

Ag students’ research to be featured at DSU conference

The affect of controlled burns, developing a plotting system for alkaline soils, and the affect of starter fertilizer on forage crops are just a few of the research projects slated to be a part of a research and scholarship conference at Dickinson State University later this month.

The affect of controlled burns, developing a plotting system for alkaline soils, and the affect of starter fertilizer on forage crops are just a few of the research projects slated to be a part of a research and scholarship conference at Dickinson State University later this month.

The conference, which is open to DSU seniors, will feature about 10 students within the Department of Agriculture and Technical Studies, said Dr. Chip Poland, chair of the department.

Students are encouraged to enroll in a junior seminar, where they can sit down and come up with ideas for their research project. Through a senior seminar they can continue working on their projects, Poland said.

“They are encouraged to find a topic that means something to them,” Poland said. “They have to publicly present their work somewhere.”

Some of the students have been working on their projects for more than a year.

The mortality of Ponderosa Pines from prescribed burns was the topic of senior Crystal Jahner’s research project.

Jahner, who works for the National Forest Service, said she’s been working on the topic for over a year.

“We did a prescribed burn last May and I went out and measured three different variables, took those variables into account and related them to tree mortality,” Jahner said. “My conclusions were opposite from what I thought.”

The scorch height was higher in an area where trees had been thinned, she added.

“I think it was because the thinned area had been thinned about three years prior to burning,” Jahner said. “It opened up the canopy.”

Working with Agronomist Roger Ashley with the North Dakota State University Dickinson Research Extension Center, Morristown, S.D.- native Walker Sabin completed a project on developing a plotting system to plant alfalfa varieties in saline and sodic soils.

“Basically, we just took soil samples from 11 different sites in a field near Sentinel Butte and from each site we took a core sample,” Sabin. “The soil was sent to NDSU for testing and then the results were entered into a GPS system. The computer program developed boundaries for the different characteristics of the soil.

“Once we had the maps made, we were able to place the plots where we wanted them.”

Mikael Schmidt, originally from Center, focused his project, which was started last year, on the affect of starter fertilizer on oat-pea forage crop, which sprung from questions he and his father had regarding the involvement between field peas and the amount of fertilizer needed, due to the fact that peas raise nitrogen in the soil.

“We went and seeded some oat-pea mix for hay for cattle and we varied the fertilizer rates on it, from a full fertilizer rate, a half fertilizer rate, and a no fertilizer rate, thinking the peas in the system would fix nitrogen,” Schmidt said. “It basically cuts your production costs if you can cut the fertilizer out of it.”

A 60 percent mix of peas and 40 percent mix of oats with varied fertilizer rates were a part of the project.

“I kept track of them every week and take pictures and if it rained, I’d record the rainfall amount, just to keep track of how they were coming along,” Schmidt said.

From his project, Schmidt said he was able to show that half fertilizer rates yielded the most and gave the most return per acre.

According to DSU information, some of last year’s topics from agriculture students included: Black-Tailed Prairie Dogs and soil textures, interseeding an annual forage into an established crested wheatgrass pasture, the affects of elk habitat due to road classification and evaluating the economics of ownership versus leasing combines from a producer’s perspective.

The DSU Ninth Annual Undergraduate Research and Scholarship Conference will be held April 29 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the DSU Student Center Ballrooms.

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