Abbey Wick, NDSU Department of Soil Science
The Soil Health and Agriculture Research Extension (SHARE) Farm remains the premier soil health project. Programming linked with the SHARE Farm takes place in winter months in the form of Soil Health Café Talks and a larger “end of the winter season” workshop along with a summer Annual Soil Health Field Day. Research continues on-site with the installation of conservation tillage treatments and graduate student research on anticipated soluble salt leaching after tile drain installation.
We held the café talks in Richland, Sargent, Traill and Grand Forks Counties during the months of January and February – in total, we had 15 meetings with over 30 contact hours with farmers who attended. We drew 66 farmers with 7 different specialists from main campus to guide the conversation. Seven commodity council members and one member of SBARE also attended the café talks. This approach has proven to be very successful for helping farmers adjust management practices according to NDSU research recommendations.
Our annual soil health field day was well attended with over 100 people. We weren’t at the SHARE Farm this year because we were letting the tile lines that were installed in 2014 mellow, but were at another commodity funded conservation tillage project just up the road in Barney, ND. We did small discussion groups again and hands on demos to talk about conservation tillage, fertility management, erosion control, crop disease and weed management, cover crops and dynamic rotations.
Research continues at the SHARE Farm, where we continue to monitor field conditions. Detailed measurements are made of the field soil annually to assess management effects on soil health, such as the status of nutrient, organic matter changes, and salinity. We have also been working in the lab to evaluate soluble salt leaching in cores collected from the SHARE Farm. This gives us an idea of potential salt removal from soils following tile drain installation. This fall, we installed conservation tillage plots with Aaron Daigh (NDSU) and Jodi DeJong-Hughes (UMN Extension). There are now full scale (1) strip till with shank, (2) strip till with coulter, (3) vertical till and (4) chisel plow treatments over tiled and un-tiled and saline and non-saline ground. We will measure yields, soil temperature, moisture and other soil health parameters over the next several years.