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Abbey Wick

Soil Health Minute: What's to come

You can hardly pick up a magazine without seeing an article on soil health — exciting times for agriculture, but also challenging as we figure out how to fit these practices to our farms. North Dakota State University Extension specialists and researchers, farmers and consultants have partnered and are learning alongside each other to apply soil health building practices on-farm. As a result of this partnership, new ideas are constantly surfacing and research to test these ideas is being done at a rapid pace to determine the best approaches for our region. We have quickly become the "go to" source nationally for information on soil health.

As a result of all the new ideas being generated and tested, NDSU and sponsoring commodity groups the North Dakota Corn Council and North Dakota Soybean Council are bringing you the Soil Health Minute on Agweek TV. We'll use this as a platform to get valuable tips and information into the hands of farmers, with more detailed information following each segment as part of this magazine column and on the NDSU Soil Health Webpage (

Here are some ideas of topics the TV segments and columns will cover:

• We will talk about inter-seeding cover crops into corn. We'll visit a field that was inter-seeded in July 2016 with cereal rye and radish and see how the rye over-wintered and looks this spring. Inter-seeding is a way to get a cover crop established mid-season so that it has a chance to put on some biomass before winter.

• Planting soybean into a living cereal rye cover crop is another approach that we will touch on this spring. This is a follow-up to the concept of inter-seeding cereal rye in corn and is a practice gaining popularity as a way to manage moisture, control weeds and improve trafficability at planting.

• Salts are coming to the surface again this spring, turning black fields into bright white patches where crops will not grow. We'll talk about crop tolerance to salinity that was part of a three-year research project supported by commodity dollars. This information, combined with an online economic calculator will guide decisions about which crop to plant. We'll also talk about using cover crops and tile drainage to manage saline areas.

• Reducing tillage is another hot topic when it comes to soil health. We have research plots where we are collecting moisture and temperature data from strip till, vertical till and chisel plow plots. We'll share this information for different soil types under corn and soybean.

These are a few ideas of what's to come on the TV segment and also in the magazine column. Stick with us as we deliver timely, unbiased, research-based information throughout the year. Remember, you also can get updates on the NDSU Soil Health Webpage and also by following me on Twitter (@NDSUsoilhealth).

Editor's note: Wicks is an Extension Soil Health Specialist at NDSU. Learn more about her work at