Welcome to the Soil Sense Podcast

We believe that building healthier soils is not just a prescription, but rather a pursuit. This journey requires collaboration, curiosity, and communication among farmers, agricultural researchers, agronomists, consultants, and extension. You’re going to hear their stories and discover how and why they’re working together to make sense out of what’s happening in the soil.

– Tim Hammerich, Future of Agriculture Podcast Host

Episode 1: Setting the Stage

Dr. Abbey Wick, NDSU Soil Health Specialist (Photo credit: Larry Biri)

Dr. Abbey Wick is an Extension Soil Health Specialist at North Dakota State University. She joins us to share what her role is in promoting soil health in North Dakota. Dr. Wick works primarily with farmers but also coordinates county extension agents and other educators to share what new research indicates with regards to enriching the health of the soil. She encourages networking between all factions of agriculture to best help the farmer in their pursuit of a high quality yield. Her Cafe Talks have become a welcomed forum for farmers to receive, engage with and implement new practices that work best for their individual needs.

“Every year is different…that makes it a lifelong pursuit, makes it an awareness that you have to have of your system.” – Dr. Abbey Wick

This Week on Soil Sense:

  • How North Dakota coordinates efforts to disseminate information
  • What soil health means to her as a soil scientist
  • What are the obstacles she must overcome to get new ideas and research accepted
  • Why Soil Health does not lend itself to a “one size fits all” prescription service
  • What happens when she doesn’t know the answer to a farmer’s questions.
  • What is a SHARE Farm

Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.

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Episode 2: Soil Health on the Farm

Tony Wagner, Jamestown Farmer

Ride along with fourth generation farmer Tony Wagner in Jamestown, North Dakota. Farming has been a lifelong passion for Tony. He took on his first field in the eighth grade and after pursuing college returned to the area to help manage his family’s operation. He has experimented with different cover crops for different fields in order to better the soil he has access to. He joins us today to share his excitement for implementing new techniques and the drastic effect it has had on the quality of his soil.

 “You have one shot a year to do this and then you have to wait the whole entire year for it to come around. And that’s kind of what honestly really keeps me interested in it…..There’s just so many things to do from preparation for equipment in the winter time to all of a sudden you’re planting and then from planting you’re going on to spraying and then from spraying it starts leading into harvest and next thing you know, the leaves are falling off the tree….. I like working with fields and soil and just anything that I could do to improve our farm.” – Tony Wagner

This Week on Soil Sense:

  • Hear about the heritage associated with the Wagner Farm
  • Learn about the new techniques Tony has implemented
  • The effects rotating cover crops have had on the quality of the soil
  • The collaboration of farmers and extension agents to learn and improve

Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.

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Episode 3: Dial in Fertility

Dr. Dave Franzen, NDSU Soil Specialist (Photo credit: Larry Biri)

Join us for the first installment of a two-part interview with Dr. Dave Franzen, a Soil Scientist at North Dakota State University in Extension, and Anthony Thilmony, a fourth generation farmer in the Valley City, North Dakota area. These two have collaborated for many years through discussion and trials. Today we explore soil fertility and the effect of a no-till strategy. We learn about some of the benefits including a decreased nitrogen need and increased microorganism activity to name two.

 “In order to get somebody to change the way they’re doing things you either have to have an economic tag or an emotional tag.” -Dr. Dave Franzen

 “My goal is when I quit farming everything is going to be in better shape than I got it and that’s what drives me with the no-till.” – Anthony Thilmony

This Week on Soil Sense:

  • Discover how Dr Franzen and Anthony began to collaborate
  • Learn about soil loss in North Dakota over the last 100 years
  • Hear about the benefits of performing research on commercial farms
  • What the advantages are of having a no-till field
  • Who the “Beach Boys’ of North Dakota are and what they have accomplished

Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.

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Episode 4: Precision of Soil Health

Anthony Thilmony, Valley City Farmer

Welcome to the second installment of a two part interview with Dr. Dave Franzen, a soil scientist at North Dakota State University, and Anthony Thilmony, a fourth generation farmer in the Valley City, North Dakota area. In this segment we will be focusing on the precision of soil health. We explore how to identify your individual soil needs and how to effectively and efficiently meet those demands.

 “The Zone Sampling Concept is the number one site specific nutrient management strategy in the state. I wish more people would do it .” -Dr. Dave Franzen

 “I had a goal. I didn’t go from here to there. I went five steps in between.” – Anthony Thilmony

This Week on Soil Sense:

  • Learn about the development of zone sampling
  • Discover the benefits and philosophy behind variable rate fertilization application
  • Converting to various precision ag techniques requires a financial and time commitment
  • What factors influence the decision to try a new technique or add new technology

Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.

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Episode 5: Challenges of Building Soil Health in Cool and Wet Climates

Sam Landman, Logan Center Farmer

Sam Landman is a fifth generation farmer who manages not only his family farm but also a SHARE (Soil Health and Agriculture Research Extension) Farm. He discusses how his techniques have evolved and how that has impacted his crop rotations and equipment choices. Challenging effective practices for better sustainability and soil health is an uphill battle but Sam is already seeing the benefits.

“I think the long-term benefits will be there for sure. But you know we’re always up against short-term economics anytime you’re transitioning to a new practice.” Sam is perpetually researching and networking to gain as much knowledge as possible. He wants to make the most informed decisions he can. If someone is interested in trying some of these new practices, Sam recommends reaching out and asking questions. Dr. Abbey Wick and the rest of the extension have been great resources for him. He also suggests experimenting with some smaller fields first to find the best fit for your operation.

“I like seeing green out there. I like seeing living biology out there. When you start digging around in the ground, you start seeing the soil come alive because of the living root out there. It’s just kind of an addiction. Once you start it and you start seeing the benefits you want to keep trying it and do more and more.” -Sam Landman

This Week on Soil Sense:

  • Meet Sam Landman and hear his story farming in North Dakota
  • Discuss transitioning to reduced tillage practices
  • Explore new soil handling techniques and the effect that has had on Sam’s farm
  • Learn about the challenges faced by those changing farming protocols

Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.

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Episode 6: Lessons from 20 Years of Crop Consulting

Dr. Lee Briese, Crop Consultant

Dr. Lee Briese is a Crop Consultant with Centrol Crop Consulting. He does not sell any products but rather solely focuses on helping farmers make the best decisions for their crops and soils. Dr. Briese checks every field weekly which creates a comprehensive understanding of the individual farmer’s goals, their assets and their obstacles to reaching those goals.  He estimates he has covered over a million acres with his crop consulting resulting in a wealth of knowledge and experience. “There’s no one (size) fits all for anybody,” says Dr. Briese. We learn how many factors play into the recommendations he makes and the timing of the alternative techniques he suggests.  

“There has to be a distinct level of trust between (the farmers) and I as far as the information I’m giving them, that not only applies to them but is solid information.” Dr. Lee Briese.

This Week on Soil Sense:

  • Introduction to Dr Lee Briese, a crop consultant with Centrol Crop Consulting
  • Dr Briese discusses his approach to introducing new techniques
  • Learn how information is shared between farms
  • Discover why farmers in North Dakota use a lower rate of herbicide application and what the consequences are in regards to herbicide resistance

Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.

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Episode 7: Taking Off with Soil Health

Matt Nelson, Lakota Farmer

Matt Nelson joins Soil Sense today to share his experiences from his farm in Lakota, North Dakota where they produce small grains, wheat, barley, canola, soybeans, corn and edible beans. While Matt grew up on the farm, he spent the first 15-16 years of his career as a commercial pilot which has influenced his approach to farming.

Matt shares the challenges and benefits that come with adopting reduced tillage practices. Another obstacle Matt faces are saline soils that have become more apparent with frequent rainfall. Matt shares his approach to implementing new techniques and what factors create the most viable options for his operation.  

“Ask your neighbors. Ask your friends. Ask the guys how have been farming for a long time. What’s worked for you? What do you see? Are there certain times or certain practices you see that work better or have a negative effect on what you’re doing?” Matt Nelson

This Week on Soil Sense:

  • Meet Matt Nelson
  • Learn what drew him away from his job as an airline pilot towards being a full-time farmer
  • Discover what are the biggest changes Matt has made to his farming operation
  • Explore the effects of a multi-year wet period and what adjustments needed to be made

Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.

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Episode 8: Cover Crops

Marisol Berti, NDSU cover crop researcher

Dr. Marisol Berti spearheads research in the use of cover crops as a professor in the Plant Sciences Department at North Dakota State University. Her most recent projects are focused on cover crops and their uses with crops outside of the more traditional corn and soybean rotations. Among her many successes in this field, her team has also developed a specific planter to better plant a cover crop and beat the oncoming winter. Dr. Berti shares that the hallmark of using cover crops is the benefit of “protecting the soil.” She admits there is a risk with cover crops as there is with any crop when the weather does not support the seed’s growth. The difference with cover crops is that they are not insured, which leads to a total economic loss if the crop is not successful.

Dr. Berti discusses the use of Camelina as a broad leaf cover crop and the benefits to its use. As of yet it has not been broadly used but shows great potential. The biggest obstacle she faces is not in its use but in its marketability to create another source of income for the farmer. There is currently a lot of interest in it as a source for Omega-3 Fatty Acids for human consumption but no clear market currently in the United States.  If a market develops the use of Camelina will not only be beneficial to soil health but also create additional income for the farmer which would help offset its risk.

If you go in a Corn-Soybean rotation with no cover crops the soil is almost like a parking lot. There is nothing. There is no life. You can dig and dig and there’s not one worm. I go to a farm that has had cover crops for 10 years and he puts his shovel no matter where and he gets a bunch of worms.” Dr. Marisol Berti

This Week on Soil Sense:

  • Explore the practice of adding cover crops
  • Meet Dr. Berti, a cover crop expert and Professor at North Dakota State University
  • Discover the use, benefit and obstacles in using Camelina as a cover crop

Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.

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Episode 9: Improving Soil Health Over Generations

Lee Trautman, Jamestown Farmer

Lee Trautman joins us today. Lee farms corn, soybean and small grains in Jamestown, North Dakota with his brother and father. Trautman Farms has been no till for over 20 years giving Lee a unique farming experience of very limited tillage.

A wet year with prevented planting situations introduced the idea of cover crops to Trautman Farms. The cover crops they initially chose were based on what seed they had available. Now Lee employs rye and has found that it “fits the bill” for their operation and assists with weed suppression and water consumption. Lee discusses the significant impact his practices have had on his farm and the conversations it has inspired with his neighbors and landlords.

“That’s what really gets you is when you get somebody who’s not around every day or  that sees it every day or maybe has never seen a no-till field. And  they come out and they just can’t stop saying good things about your soils. That really means a lot to me.” -Lee Trautman

“Sometimes you can just go out in a field and and stick a shovel in the ground and just be like, yes, this is a good piece of ground. And I can do that in all of my fields. I can stick a shovel in the ground and there’s always worms. There’s good aggregation. There’s structure. There’s lots of organic matter. It’s just a beautiful piece of ground most of the time. And just knowing that we’ve helped create that and kind of keep it established that way so…..hopefully the next generation can enjoy it and keep improving it.” -Lee Trautman

This Week on Soil Sense:

  • Meet Lee Trautman, a farmer in Jamestown, North Dakota
  • Hear how Trautman Farms manage their farm with three family members running different parts of the operation
  • Explore what program introduced Trautman Farms to cover crops
  • Learn how Lee manages the use of rye and is able to replenish his seed every year
  • Discover what healthy soils means to Lee and how he can demonstrate their vitality on his farm

Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.

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Episode 10: Salinity & Sodicity Issues

Naeem Kalwar, extension Soil Health Specialist (Photo credit: Larry Biri)

Naeem Kalwar is an extension Soil Health Specialist in the Langdon Research Extension Center. His expertise is shared today in facing sodicity and salinity issues in your soils.

The term salinity refers to the potential for high salt levels in the soil which can decrease water absorption at the root-level resulting in drought stressed crops. Fortunately salinity does not affect soil structure allowing for the smooth movement of water and air through the soil despite the increased salt content. Good drainage and improved soil water infiltration can help manage salinity concerns.

Sodicity, on the other hand, creates an issue that is not as easy to correct. With sodicity, a bond between the sodium molecules and the clay is formed. This directly affects the ability of the water to move through the soil as it will settle in dense layers. With an increase in sodicity you will also have a higher retention of salt resulting in increased salinity.  Amendments like gypsum are required to increase the aggregation and good structure of the soil in order to compensate for the structural changes caused by sodicity.

“Our groundwater has very high salt levels, plus sodium. And this sodium i’m talking about is not presented as salt. This sodium gets attracted to the negative charges of clay and humus soil particles, and causes sodicity or the breakdown of soil aggregates…so we have two different problems: salt and sodicity.” – Naeem Kalwar

This Week on Soil Sense:

  • Meet Naeem Kalwar an extension Soil Health Specialist
  • Explore the differences between soils in different regions
  • Learn about the significance of salinity and sodicity in a soil’s health
  • Discover how to identify and address these concerns

Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.

Listen Now!