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Soil Health Minute: SHARE farm and soil health research

Farmers are looking for information on ways to reduce tillage and include cover crops in their rotations. In our first Soil Health Minute of the 2018 growing season, Abbey Wick visits a special farm that's leading extension efforts related to soil health building practices.

Abbey WicK:

So I thought I'd kick off this season's Soil Health Minute by being out at the site that it all. So we're here at the Soil Health and Agriculture Research Extension farm, also called the SHARE Farm, to show a little bit about what we're doing as far as research, but then also what we're doing with Extension programming.

This site is funded by farmers, through the North Dakota Corn Council, Soybean Council, and also the North Dakota Wheat Commission. So farmers are contributing to the work that we do here on a yearly basis, not only through their funding, but also through their ideas.

The SHARE farm was started in 2013. And on site here we're doing research related to conservation tillage, to using cover crops in rotation, salinity management and also soil health assessment. What we do here with the extension program is, we take the information we learn at this site, and we take it out to the entire state, through our cafe talks is probably the best known extension program we have with the SHARE farm.  It's a great way for not only farmers to get information from NDSU, but also NDSU to get information from farmers and consultants.

What we found with the cafe talks is that farmers are most interested in the concept of interseeding cover crops into corn. And so almost 75 percent of the farmers were either going to try that practice, or they were willing to try that in the next year or so,  as a result of attending cafe talks. So we took that practice that we learned about in 2016 and we applied it here at the SHARE farm, where we interseeded corn that summer. We put cereal rye and radish into our mix, and then the following spring we planted soybean directly into that living cereal rye, as a practice that farmers are also interested in trying.

The soil here is changing rapidly since we converted this field to no till in 2016. We have aggregates in here which now resemble the appearance of cottage cheese.  We also found our first earthworm here this past fall of 2017, and earthworms are a great indicator of a soil recovering and becoming healthier.

I also want to show the residue on the surface here since we converted to no till in 2016. You can see the corn stalks that are left here are starting to decompose, you can see the standing stubble from the soybean, and you can also see a little bit of the cereal rye residue here on the surface. So we have excellent protection against wind erosion at this site, and I think with the decomposition that is occurring, we shouldn't have any issue planting wheat into this field this year.

This season I'm excited to show you more practices farmers are using to build soil health, not only on AgweekTV but also in Agweek Magazine. If you'd like to see more information on soil health building practices, you can visit the NDSU Soil Health webpage.