Abbey Wick, NDSU Extension Soil Health Specialist
There is so much, despite the challenges we face, that we can be thankful for in the world of agriculture and also soil health. I can't speak for anyone but myself, but here are a few things that are top on my "thankful list" mostly centered on camaraderie and legacy. Agriculture can seem like a pretty solitary existence — farmers are in equipment for long periods of time by themselves, I drive a ton of miles each year by myself, researchers work on papers by themselves, consultants scout acre upon acre on a four-wheeler by themselves.
One of North Dakota's own experts in soil health and independent crop consultant, Lee Briese is the keynote presenter at the Dakota Innovation Research and Technology (DIRT) Workshop in Fargo, Dec. 9-11. There are some key points that he will be making, which I am really excited about, so I'll give you a sneak peek.
It never fails that once a plan comes together that there's a new twist. After a few weeks of talking about cover crop options on prevented planting acres that could not be hayed or grazed until Nov. 1, the date changed to Sept. 1. This change in date is excellent news and certainly opens up more options for farmers.
We've been having Café Talks on cover crops for prevented planting and it's led to some excellent discussions. Talking through ideas has really helped solidify approaches, so I'll share some of those ideas. This article is going to be framed in the context of "why" we even want to do this, "what" we can do and how you just need to "trust your gut" and get it done.
In response to the anticipated prevented planting in various parts of North Dakota, we are planning a series of Café Talks on cover crops in prevented planting situations. These will be an excellent opportunity to meet with North Dakota State University specialists and researchers to run through options and hopefully we can get some insurance representatives there to provide input during the conversation.
With the Extension Service, we often ask ourselves "why do you do what you do?" as a way to get at the core of our programming and to keep us moving forward in a positive way. Getting to the "why" of what you're doing can be difficult and require a little soul-searching. It's one of those questions that you think may be easy to answer, but when you start writing down "what" you do, "how" you do it so that you can get to the "why" you do it, it gets a little more complicated and may take several days to finally get to the answer.
There are a multitude of ways that research generated at universities can be shared with the agricultural community.
Reducing tillage is one approach used to build the benefits of a healthier soil — like reducing erosion and better water management. But, leaving some extra residue on the surface can be daunting in the Red River Valley, where soils are high in clay, can hold a lot of water and be slow to warm up in the spring. Moisture and temperature conditions at planting are probably the primary concern of farmers exploring the idea of reducing tillage. We put a few conservation tillage practices to the test at the Soil Health and Agriculture Research Extension Farm in Mooreton, N.D.
This week's observation is related to yield response to two management practices, tile drainage and no-till. We often hear these two practices being talked about together, for example, "If I install tile drainage, I can start using no-till on high clay, valley soils." I'm not sure I have the answer, but I like the thought process of stacking tools. Let's talk about what the data/research tell us to help guide decisions.
If you've been to a soil health meeting where Lee Briese (Independent Crop Consultant with Centrol Ag) presented you'll hear him make the statement, "fire those acres." I'm going to take a page out of his playbook and share more about what this means. The whole idea behind "fire those acres" relates to recognizing that some acres aren't able to do what you want them to do — their inherent properties don't allow it. So, you need to do something different with those acres. In some cases, it's "firing those acres" from the old way of doing things and coming up with a different plan.