Kelly Cooper, NDSU Carrington Research Extension Center
Dr. Dwayne Beck, farm manager of the Dakota Lakes Project in South Dakota commented last winter that tillage is like to soil, what fracking is to oil production. One little problem, when you get done pumping the oil out, you go elsewhere. Fracking soil is not a good plan if you plan on farming on a long term basis, in the same spot. Dr. Dave Franzen of NDSU in a recent news article detailed ½ of the top soil has been lost since the white man came. That is not much more than a hundred years. By comparison, this makes the national debt look like the epitome of responsibility.
The work done at CCSP is to promote and demonstrate farming practices that reduce soil erosion to low levels, so the land can be farmed indefinitely. At CCSP a documented increase in soil organic matter has been shown in a recent doctoral thesis done by Gabriel Aher. Our rotations will bring erosion down, some almost to zero, and they will substantially change the soil carbon system from an emitter to a collector. What has become obvious at CCSP is dealing with crop residue is challenging in wet years. In wet years, myself and several of the CCSP board members look at tile drainage as a soil conservation practice. Our work has demonstrated planting into growing rye in the spring overcomes some wetness issues. Our rotation of growing no till corn on alfalfa continues to be the best on wet years. Last year, not only was the alfalfa ground the easiest to plant, it showed no nitrogen deficiency as evidenced by stalk nitrate test, and appearance, and was the highest yielding. Most agronomists I have talked with felt we lost large amounts of nitrogen last year either by denitrification, leaching or both.
Ongoing projects at CCSP include, demonstrations of 15 crop rotations across 175 large plots. Crops grown are corn, soybeans, spring and winter wheat, peas, alfalfa, and cover crops. Bio-Strip till, Mechanical strip till and no till are the farming methods. Rye was spread at different times during the fall to look at cover crop establishment in the fall of 2014. Compost has been incorporated into the alfalfa rotation. GMO crops are used along with current technology crop medicines. A corn variety trial run in conjunction with no till and strip till is ongoing. A large field day is held each July along with other small tours. The focus of the 2014 field day was planter technology. Outreach and education are an important part of our mission. The farm manager and board members have spoken at local, regional, and national meetings in regards to work done at CCSP including The National No-till Meeting, National Strip till Meeting, Man-Dak Zero till, and South Dakota No-till Meeting to name a few in the past year.