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North Central Region Extension Center conducts crop research in all weathers in greenhouse

The greenhouse, built in 2027, was financed through public and private donations, and is located on a 1,500 acre site a mile south of Minot, North Dakota.

Brian Jenks, wearing a blue, white and black plaid shirt, points to a wild oats plant in a pot.
Brian Jenks, North Central Research Extension Center weed scientist, has ongoing studies on whether wild oats is resistant to Roundup.
Ann Bailey / Agweek

MINOT, N.D. — While a frigid wind buffets the snow piles outside, plants from pulses to wild oats to hemp flourish in the climate-controlled North Central Research Extension Center greenhouse in Minot.

The greenhouse, built in 2007, allows researchers to conduct research and grow crops — and weeds — year-around. The building, which was financed through public and private donations, is located on a 1,500 acre site a mile south of Minot.

The North Central Research Extension Center in Minot, like other Extension centers in North Dakota, conducts research on the crops commonly grown in its area. The Minot center is unique because it is located in an area of North Dakota that is a “transitional zone” where farmers use both conventional tillage and no-till farming methods. That is in contrast to the east side of the state where they do conventional tillage and the west side, which primarily is no-till, said Shana Forster, NCREC director.

Farmers in north-central North Dakota grow a wide variety of crops, including specialty crops such as edible beans, peas, crambe, lentils, besides small grains. The herbicide research of Brian Jenks, NCREC weed scientist, reflects the mixture of crops grown in the north-central region of North Dakota, Forster said.

“He’s pretty cognizant of how residual chemicals carryover,” she said.

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The greenhouse allows Jenks to do major research projects, he said.

“It’s been a big advantage because we can do big projects here, from weed resistance to projects where we do crop tolerance to different herbicides,” Jenks said.

Jenks, for example, conducts year-around tests on whether wild oats have become resistant to Roundup. Pots of wild oats, both healthy and in varying states of decline after being sprayed with Roundup, sat atop tables in the NCREC greenhouse in late January. So far the results of the resistance tests have been negative.

Farmers supply the samples of wild oats, which has become more invasive during the past decade, and, especially, in the northeast, Jenks said.

“Wild oats really like wet conditions. It’s a problem every year,” he said. “The worst thing you could do is to grow the same crop rotation.”

Besides the herbicide resistance testing, Jenks also is studying whether herbicide resistance is developing in other weeds, such as foxtail, after prolonged periods of use.

“Puma was one of the first herbicides. We’ve been using that for decades. That’s why we’re seeing resistance,” Jenks said.

Meanwhile, weed resistance to Group 2 herbicides, which are ALS/AHAS inhibitors,
has also become common, he said.

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Weed seedlings, which are used for plant identification in a traveling school that is held across North Dakota, also are grown in the Extension center greenhouse.

Plants, including pulses and grapes, are started in the greenhouse, Forster said. The foundation grape plants are transplanted into the NCREC vineyard.

Outside of the greenhouse, most of the NCREC acreage is used for foundation seed production, Forster said.

Chick pea plants are in black pots on a white greenhouse table.
Chickpeas are one of the crops grown in the North Central Research Extension Center greenhouse and on acreage outside.
Ann Bailey / Agweek

“We grow soybeans, durum wheat, hard red spring wheat, flax, field peas, barley, oats,” she said. “It represents what is grown locally.”

The center sells varieties of foundation barley, durum, flax, hard, red spring wheat, oats, peas and soybean seed.

Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: abailey@agweek.com or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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