Today we focus on how agricultural research experiments actually happens in practice.
Nate Derby and Rod Utter are both Research Specialists with North Dakota State University. Nate shares his experience with researching soil physics and the movement of water through the field. Rod Utter discusses his expertise from years of researching the life cycle and origin of earthworms.
Both guests have done work with the SHARE (Soil Health and Agriculture Research Extension) Farm. While they mostly work on different projects, they bring a unique insight as those that are working with field scale ag research.
While earthworms may not be considered an obvious top factor in farming production values, they provide far more benefit than composting and fish bait to the general public. Different species have adapted to different environments and different food sources making some more beneficial than others to farming especially in North Dakota.
“The earthworms themselves do a nice job. They create a lot of pore space for other organisms to go through, they turnover organic matter in the soil and on the surface they make nitrogen and phosphorus more available.” – Rod Utter
Vast amounts of soil samples and water samples are collected to further evaluate the soil on the SHARE farm and how it is affected by different practices. While the main focus of Nate’s research has been on no-till practices, he has also been able to monitor salinity and the effects of adding tile drainage to limit the reach of the water table.
“It just takes time. I think the longer you can monitor something like that, you’re going to continue to see changes.” – Nate Derby
Nate and Rod are able to use each other’s findings to create a more comprehensive assessment of the soil health and the effects different practices have on it. They have verified that different salinity levels directly affect the worm populations and how quickly they can infiltrate a field and provide their benefit.
“Related to worms on the SHARE Farm….they are moving in somewhat from the edges and that correlates pretty well with what we’ve been seeing with the salts on the surface.” -Nate Derby