SNRS Graduate Symposium

Thursday, November 5th, 9am-2pm

Zoom Link:
Meeting ID: 942 9882 4193  Passcode: 020608


9:00 Guest Speaker, Dr. Clayton Marlow, "Response of soil carbon (organic matter) to grazing management in rangeland and riparian soils"
9:30 Rachel Ouren
9:45 Robin Malik
10:00 Michael Hamel
10:15 Megan Wanchuk
10:30 Guest Speaker, Dr. Mike Simanonok, "Pollinator health and habitat with changing land-use"
11:00 Savannah Adams
11:15 Aron Oliveras
11:30 Diksha Goyal
11:45 Friederike Baumgaertner
12:00 Guest Speaker, Dr. Carissa Wonkka, “Ecological theory for effective rangeland restoration and reclamation”
12:30 Mo Puffer
12:45 Dylan Bartels
1:00 Zach Bartsch
1:15 Nick Birkhimer

Student Abstracts

Invasive Cool-Season Perennials’ Richness Impacts in the Northern Great Plains
Rachel Ouren- North Dakota State University
Dr. Kevin Sedivec- North Dakota State University
Dr. Devan McGranahan- North Dakota State University
Dr. Jack Norland- North Dakota State University

Invasive species are encroaching on more rangelands in the US and altering their community composition and diversity. In the Northern Great Plains, cool-season perennial grasses (Kentucky bluegrass, crested wheatgrass, smooth brome) are encroaching and their specific impacts are less understood. This study analyzed a long-term (13-year) and landscape-scale data set to identify these invaders’ impacts on the National Grasslands in western North Dakota. A better understanding of these three species’ impacts can inform land managers decisions to mitigate their impacts. The purpose of this study was to identify key impacts of Kentucky bluegrass, smooth brome, and crested wheatgrass invasion, as well as a combination of the three, on the native plant community through first assessing richness. As Kentucky bluegrass and crested wheatgrass increased, richness slightly decreased, but there was no significant difference for smooth brome. However, all three of these invaders limited the maximum richness present on a site as they increased. This can potentially hinder resources for avian habitat, wildlife habitat, and pollinators. This study is specific to the Northern Great Plains’ cool-season perennial invaders; however, these finding may be generalized to aid in understanding other cool-season perennial invaders.

Keywords: Invasion, community shift, northern great plains, Kentucky bluegrass, crested wheatgrass, smooth brome


Increasing Grazing Utilisation of Invasive Species by Goats and Cattle to Enhance Meat Quality
Robin Malik

The agriculture industry has been under constant scrutiny for the past few decades regarding its environmental influence. Because of that, certain sustainability driven practices have been implemented. One technique that I’m testing in my PhD project is targeted grazing. I’m exploring whether ruminants will willingly consume certain invasive weed species, which otherwise would have been eradicated by using herbicides or mechanically removed. Currently we are testing Wormwood sage, Canada thistle and Western snowberry. So far, we have seen that goats tend to eat all the weeds, whereas cattle refused to eat any of them except Canada thistle. Nevertheless, our results still showed that ruminant can be used as effective targeted grazers for those particular noxious weeds. The next step from here is to test whether the consumption of these weeds influence their meat quality. If we happen to find an enhancement in meat quality, then that means we’ve just killed three birds with one stone (1) reducing use of herbicide which is better for the environment (2) reducing farmer input cost by not having to pay nearly as much for herbicide and animal feed and (3) potentially better tasting meat!


Effects of Pyric-Herbivory on Plant Community Dynamics in the Northern Mixed-grass Prairie
Michael Hamel, Ryan Limb, Torre Hovick, Devan McGranahan and Kevin Sedivec

Fire and grazing are historical interactive disturbances that shaped grasslands for millennia creating mosaic landscapes with various plant communities that were high in biodiversity. Land management after European settlement removes fire from this ecosystem creating homogenous landscapes that are dominated by invasive grass species, such as Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis) and smooth brome (Bromus inermis). We evaluated the differences in plant community composition, diversity, richness, and evenness from 2017 to 2019 between a conventional continuous grazing system and two patch-burn grazing systems. Using non-metric multidimensional scaling (NMDS) and perMANOVA we determined plant community composition between the continuous grazing system and the patch-burn grazing systems were significantly different. We also found the patch-burn grazing systems had higher diversity, richness, and evenness than the continuous grazing system, and increased with time. The fire-grazing interaction increased the abundance of forb species and, to a lesser extent, native grasses, while decreasing the abundance of non-native grass species. This increase in diversity of plant communities can have a trophic cascade increasing the diversity of wildlife communities and therefore increasing the biodiversity of the entire ecosystem. Diverse plant communities are also found to be more resilient to drought and produce higher quality forage for livestock. Therefore patch-burn grazing can not only be used as a tool for conservation of grasslands, but also as a suitable replacement for conventional season-long livestock grazing.

Keywords: Rangelands, pyric-herbivory, fire, grazing, patch-burn grazing, fire ecology, plant communities, and northern Great Plains


Effects of fire on mineral content of native forage 
Megan R. Wanchuk*1, Jonathan W. Spiess1, Devan A. McGranahan1, Kevin K. Sedivec1, Erin M. Gaugler2, Torre Hovick1, Ryan F. Limb1
1 Range Science, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND,
2Central Grasslands Research Extension Center, North Dakota State University, Streeter, ND

Patch-burn grazing is a livestock management method that provides a wide range of benefits to ecosystem conservation and livestock production. Mineral nutrition is important for livestock health and performance, but the effect that fire has on forage mineral content in the Great Plains remains unknown. In this study, we determine how burning impacts the mineral content of native forage through the grazing season. Data were collected in 2017 and 2018 at an experimental rangeland in south-central North Dakota. We clipped forage at the same location in recently burned and unburned patches, on thin loamy sites at the beginning and end of the grazing season. We dried the samples, ground using a Willey mill and analyzed for calcium, phosphorus, copper and zinc content. All minerals were significantly higher in the burned than unburned patches. Copper, phosphorus and zinc are significantly higher in burned patches than unburned at the beginning and end of the grazing season. Calcium had similar content in both patches during spring but by late summer calcium was higher in burned batches than unburned. Higher mineral content in forage on burned areas has the potential to increase producer profitability through reduced mineral supplementation costs, increased immune functioning and better reproductive performance reproductive performance.


Assessing and Comparing Bee Communities in Pollinator and Dry Bean Plantings
Savannah Adams1, Torre Hovick1, Jason Harmon2, Benjamin Geaumont3, Michael Ostlie4, Caley Gasch5
1North Dakota State University, Range Science Program
2North Dakota State University, Department of Entomology
3North Dakota State University, Hettinger Research Extension Center
4North Dakota State University, Carrington Research Extension Center
5North Dakota State University, Department of Soil Science

Pollinator habitat plantings are a popular practice used to boost local bee communities in agroecosystems to help encourage pollination of nearby crops. However, 28 of the leading food crops grown across the world today do not require insect pollination, yet some have been shown to benefit from it. Dry beans are a self-pollinating crop prominently grown across the United States, but no studies have identified a pollinator community within the crops or investigated potential benefits from pollinator visitations. Our objectives for this study are 1) to assess if there is a bee community with self-pollinating dry bean plantings and 2) to compare the bee community within the pollinator and dry bean plantings. We planted pollinator plantings directly adjacent to dry bean crops at Carrington Research Extension Center and Hettinger Research Extension Center in North Dakota. We conducted bee surveys within both plantings to assess the bee community and identified captured specimens to taxonomic family level. We found at least two bee families with over 40 specimens collected within the dry beans in Hettinger, while Carrington dry beans had fewer than 20 specimens from at least three bee families. We saw significantly less bees within the dry bean plantings when compared to the pollinator plantings. The community composition within both plantings differed mainly by location, but each location had a similar composition of the main bee families present. These results show that even self-pollinating crops can have an active bee community despite not relying on insect pollination.

Keywords: self-pollinating crops, pollinator habitat plantings, bee community, insect pollinators

A Multi-method Approach to Investigating the Subspecific Designation of the Euschistus servus species complex
Aron Oliveras, Deirdre A. Prischmann-Voldseth, David Rider
North Dakota State University, Entomology Department, Fargo, North Dakota, 347.261.2763

Euschistus servus (Say) (Heteroptera: Pentatomidae) is distributed throughout North America and is currently subdivided into two subspecies E. s. servus (Say, 1831), found in the southern U.S., and E. s. euschistoides (Vollenhaven, 1861) in the northern U.S. An intergrade (anatomically intermediate of both subspecies) population inhabits the central U.S. from Maryland to Kansas. This study seeks to reevaluate the subspecific designations established by Say and Vollenhoven and determine whether E. servus subspecies and intergrade populations express distinct suites of taxonomically important morphological characteristics throughout the U.S., or if the characteristics exhibit clinal variation. We will quantify geometric morphometric data (i.e., relative lengths of the juga and tylus) from specimens collected along a north-south gradient and use a principal component analysis (PCA) to determine if there is a significant difference within the subspecies morphology. Our results may provide the basis for challenging the current subspecific designation of E. s. servus and E. s. euschistoides. If our PCA determines our measured morphological characteristics are not significantly different, we will dispute the subspecific designation. Likewise, if we find that these characteristics are subject to clinal variation, we will dispute the subspecific designation. This research will help inform further taxonomic designations and standardize subspecific designations.


Corn response to Different Sulfur Application Rate in the Red River Valley of ND and MN
Diksha Goyal a and Amitava Chatterjeeb
Graduate Research Assistant; Department of Soil Science, North Dakota State University
Associate Professor; Department of Soil Science, North Dakota State University

The occurrence of sulfur (S) deficiency is more common nowadays due to less deposition of atmospheric S in the soil, and more removal by crops. The objective of this study is to evaluate the effect of S fertilization on the corn (Zea mays L.) grain yield and S uptake. The effects of different S rates (0, 11, 22, 33, and 44 kg S ha-1) on corn growth investigated at ten locations of the Red River Valley of North Dakota and Minnesota in 2018 and 2019 growing seasons. Granular ammonium sulfate was broadcasted as a form of S fertilizer, before corn planting using a randomized complete block design with four replicates. Corn grain yield was measured at harvest and S uptake was measured at maturity. In 2018 and 2019, the S application rate for the highest corn yield varied with sites. In 2018, highest S uptake varied with sites and in 2019, S uptake increased with 44 kg S ha-1 fertilizer rate at one site. These experiments indicate that the response of corn to S vary among sites, and if no response of S observed, there was enough S in the soil for crop growth due to mineralization of S, and hence S fertilizer application had no effect on yield.

Keywords- Sulfur, corn, Yield, and S uptake


Effect of rate of gain during early gestation on colostrum and milk composition in beef heifers
Friederike Baumgaertner1*, Ana Clara B. Menezes1, Wellison J.S. Diniz1, James D. Kirsch1, Kevin K. Sedivec2, Carl R. Dahlen1
1Department of Animal Sciences and Center for Nutrition and Pregnancy, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND 58108
2Central Grasslands Research and Extension Center, North Dakota State University, Streeter, ND 58483
*Corresponding author:

Objectives were to evaluate the effect of rate of gain during the first 84 d of gestation on composition of colostrum and milk during lactation. At breeding, forty-five Angus-based heifers received either a basal diet allowing 0.28 kg/d gain (low gain [LG], n = 23) or a basal diet plus energy/protein supplementation allowing 0.79 kg/d gain (moderate gain [MG], n = 22) for 84 days. Thereafter, heifers were managed as a single group receiving common diets until parturition. Colostrum was collected before first suckling, and milk samples were collected 6 hrs. after suckling and calf removal on d 62 ± 10 and 103 ± 10 postpartum. At d 103, an additional sample was collected after oxytocin injection and 90 sec lag time to evaluate changes between milk fractions. Samples were analyzed for percentages of fat, protein, cells, urea, and solids. In colostrum, only cell count differed between treatments and was increased for LG heifers (P = 0.05). For milk, percentage of protein (P < 0.01) and solids (P = 0.03) was greater in MG heifers. Percentage of fat (P < 0.01) and solids (P < 0.01) decreased from d 62 to 103, whereas protein and urea increased (P < 0.01). At d 103, only milk fat was increased in the second sample (P < 0.01). Early gestation nutrition affected cell count at calving and milk protein during lactation. Oxytocin administration and lag time after teat stimulation increased milk fat content likely from greater release of alveolar milk into the cistern.

Key words: milk composition, maternal nutrition, energy supplementation, milk fractions  


Targeting soil compaction with alternative reclamation practices
M.A. Puffera, R.F. Limba, A.L.M. Daighb, K.K. Sediveca, and J. Volkc

The extent of degraded land resulting from energy production continues to expand globally, prompting a need for ecological restoration strategies to be re-assessed and improved. In the Northern Great Plains, surface coal mining activities and subsequent reclamation has continuously replaced intact grasslands with reconstructed landscapes. Traditional best reclamation practices may appear to be satisfactory aboveground, yet, poor belowground conditions (e.g. soil compaction) persist for decades, preventing the functional integrity of these new landscapes. The goal of this research is to compare traditional best reclamation practices (control) to alternative reclamation practices by assessing their effect on alleviating soil compaction and promoting native plant diversity. Treatments included deep ripping either at the subsoil or topsoil horizons, the integration of straw mulch into the subsoil horizon, and seeding of either a native grass mix or a native grass/forb mix. We collected penetration resistance (PR) readings down to one meter with an automatic dynamic cone penetrometer (ADCP). We collected plant cover to a species level, using modified Daubenmire cover classes. In the first two years, most treatments had higher PR than the control treatment. By year three, most treatments shifted to having lower PR compared to the control, but the overall PR increased. Vegetation communities differed depending on seeding methods. Our results suggest monitoring needs to continue to ascertain the best treatment for alleviating soil compaction and improving reclaimed grasslands. 

Key words: Reclamation, Restoration, Grasslands, Reclaimed, Compaction, Penetration Resistance, Soil Moisture, Vegetation, Coal, Surface Mining

a Department of Range Science, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND, 58104

b Department of Soil Science, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND, 58104

c BNI Mine Ltd., Bismarck, ND 58503


Using amendments to remediate salinity on brine pond sites in North Dakota
Dylan J. Bartels1, Kevin Sedivek1, Ryan Limb1, Thomas DeSutter2, Michael Undi3
1North Dakota State University, Range Science Department
2North Dakota State University, Soil Science Department

North Dakota is one of the leading states when it comes to crude oil production in the United States. The leading by-product of crude oil production is brine, water with a high concentration of dissolved solids and salts, most notably NaCl. During the mid-20th century, an acceptable form of brine disposal was through placement in ponds. Having sat idle for decades, these ponds have left behind areas of land with extremely high values of electrical conductivity (EC) and sodium absorption ratio (SAR). These saline-sodic areas are toxic to plants making remediation efforts necessary. Adding amendments to the soil is a tested method of in-situ reclamation. By integrating chemical (gypsum; Ca2SO4*2H2O) and organic (grass hay and cattle manure) amendments into the soil we wanted to see which combination of amendments performed best. The six treatments on each site were: gypsum, hay, manure, gypsum + hay, gypsum + manure, and control. The treatments involving soil amendments showed substantial difference from the control for many soil nutrients including EC, SAR, phosphorus, potassium, organic matter, and cation exchange capacity. With many treatments showing positive results, this method of remediation may not only benefit areas that have experienced brine spills or ponding, it also has potential to impact the 2.3 billion acres of saline-sodic soil worldwide.

Keywords- saline-sodic soil, brine, reclamation, amendments, saline soil, sodic soil


Microbial Recovery of Reclaimed Soils in Western North Dakota
Zachary J. Bartsch *, Thomas M. DeSutter, Caley K. Gasch
Department of Soil Science, North Dakota State University, Fargo, North Dakota, USA

Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) help vascular plants acquire micronutrients by invading root cells with arbuscules and vesicles. Although most plants take advantage of this symbiotic relationship, AMF may provide additional benefits for revegetation of remediated soils that contain limited nutrient or water availability. In 2013, an oil spill in semi-arid western North Dakota on farmland prompted a large-scale remediation project using ex-situ thermal desorption. Plots were constructed in 2015 with native, uncontaminated topsoil (A), TD treated subsoil (TDU), untreated subsoil (SP), and composted manure (m) to create the following treatments: A, A+m, TD, TDA, TD+m, TDA+m, SP, SPA, SP+m, SPA+m where soil ratios were 1:1 by volume and manure was applied at 40 Mg/ha to the 0-15 cm depth. In 2019 grain sorghum was planted, and at the 2nd leaf stage soil and root samples were taken for quantification of phospholipid-derived fatty acid (PLFA) for microbial abundance in the soil, and for infection of roots by AMF. Total microbial abundance was reduced in treatments TD and SP by 117% (α= 0.05), but was positively related to aboveground dry biomass production. Conversely, AMF root colonization rates were observed to be greatest in TD and SP treatments. These results suggest that while recovery of symbiotic relationships was greater in TD and SP treatments, inherent soil physical properties have influenced the overall recovery of soil properties, and reduce TD and SP plant productivity.

Keywords:Microbiology, reclamation, symbiotes, recovery, crop


Using cropping sequences, tillage, and manure to reclaim soils affected by pipeline installation
1Birkhimer, N., 1DeSutter, T., 2Miller, M.,2Bergman, J., 1Horsager, K., 2Wahlstrom, C., 2Dragseth, K.
1 Department of Soil Science, North Dakota State University
2 Williston Research Extension Center

Oil and natural gas (O&NG) infrastructure expansion will continue to grow in the areas overlying the Bakken and Three Forks reserves as energy demands domestically and globally increase. Agricultural land comprises nearly half of the land disturbed by O&NG development in western North Dakota. Soil mixing and compaction that occurs during pipeline installation can result in conditions that are less than suitable for agricultural production. A need exists for determining efficient methods that agricultural producers can implement to reclaim their soils following pipeline installation. This study aims to determine if diverse cropping sequences, tillage, and manure application can reclaim agricultural land following pipeline installation. This study was initiated at this Williston Research Extension Center in 2015 following the installation of a 91 cm diameter water pipeline. Five annual and two perennial cropping sequences were planted across three distinct disturbance areas: the pipeline trench, the adjacent roadway, and an undisturbed reference area. Plots were divided into three sub-plots in 2017 so tillage and manure sub-treatments could be implemented. Crop yields and other agronomic data were taken annually. Soil data, including particle size distribution, pH, EC, gravimetric water, and inorganic and organic carbon were also determined. Early results indicate that plots treated with tillage and manure application resulted in greater yields than plots treated with just tillage or not tilled at all. Yields on the roadway or pipeline never fully recovered to the yields seen on the undisturbed, but yields were significantly better than immediately post installation.

Key Words: Reclamation, Pipelines, Cropping Sequences, Tillage, Manure

Top of page