Welcome to the Field Check Podcast

“During the first two seasons of Soils Sense, we’ve featured stories of curiosity and collaboration that advance our understanding of soil health.  But now it’s time to hear from you.”
– Tim Hammerich, Host of the Future of Agriculture Podcast

“Field Check is a new podcast series released between regular seasons of Soil Sense to answer questions you have about soil health. So, ask away by simply leaving us a voicemail using the link on the NDFieldCheck.com webpage.”
– Abbey Wick, NDSU Extension Soil Health Specialist

Episodes of Field Check can be listened to I podcast version and will be played on Farm Talk with Mick Kjar on Wednesdays 2:49pm-3:00pm.

Field Check: Decades of Soil Health

“I’m always curious about the stories behind soil health and how the farmers choose to use these practices. And so I was wondering if someone could help answer a question on how they got started in soil health, the practices they may have tried over the years, things that worked and didn’t work, and what they’re going to try in the future to keep these practices going on their farm? ” – Dr. Abbey Wick, NDSU Extension Soil Health Specialist

Kerry Swindler farms near Mott, North Dakota. He started no-tilling in the early 80s and became involved in the ManDak Zero-Till Association, which was a group of pioneering farmers interested in creating healthier soils in Manitoba and North Dakota.

“When we started no-tilling in the early 80’s. That was part of the challenge for us is getting some of the organic matter back into the soil so that it would just stay where it belongs. It wouldn’t blow so easy, it wouldn’t wash when we had a heavy rain.” – Kerry Swindler

Kerry describes the major shifts in soil management protocols that began with hopes of preventing further soil erosion. During a sunflower harvest, Kerry noticed how difficult it was to move the combine across the field due to a loss of top soil. That started them “down a path” of transitioning to no-till. Kerry reports “it didn’t take long to start seeing some of the benefits.”

“The first thing, there was a lot less wind erosion. Right out of the gate… It didn’t take too many years and we started seeing a bump up in our organic matter of our soils….It was exciting to see.” – Kerry Swindler

After 40 years of no-till practices he is noticing a plateau of added benefits but he is not done. He wants to continue to improve his fields and is now exploring cover crops. “I think there’s more to go and that’s where I am.”

“I’m happy with where we are….. I hesitate to even think what it would look like if we hadn’t done this. It would be a disaster.” – Kerry Swindler

Follow the link www.NDFieldCheck.com to participate in our next question and answer segment to share your questions and get them answered by the experts!

Connect with Soil Sense at Soil Sense Initiative

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

Field Check: Understanding Soil Biology

“I’ve been farming for 40 years and for the last 4 years we’ve adopted an approach of conservation agriculture and have shifted to no till drilling. I suppose like many of my generation, have firmly  embraced the physical side of managing our soils and the chemical side of managing our soils. But it’s only recently while appreciating how important our soil is that I’ve looked at the biology of our soils. How do we make that subject more understandable to more farmers than it currently is?” – Paul Temple, Farmer from the United Kingdom

Dr. Samiran Banerjee is a Professor of Microbiology at North Dakota State University.  His focus of study includes understanding microbial patterns in agricultural soils and determining what drives their functions.

“The microbial world is complex but really important.  Microbes are really important for soil functioning. Microbes are important for crop health and soil health. Although we cannot see them we have to understand them.” – Dr. Samiran Banerjee

Dr. Banerjee is involved in the Soil Microbiome Project at NDSU. “We collected samples from over 200 farms….and at 3 different stages of crops,” shares Dr Banerjee. They then set out to identify microbial patterns and influencers.  They hope to create a database of microbial patterns including populations, drivers and functions at different times during the growing season. With this information, an index will be developed which will demonstrate what different practices could impact specific soil microbial properties.

“We want to link the soil microbial information to the management information to find out what changes we can make to promote crop beneficial microbes.” Dr. Samirin Banerjee

This could impact soil biological applications, what inputs could promote productivity of an optimal microbiome and help to predict microbial patterns in soil. Providing this practical tailored information to the farmer gives them valuable insight into the microscopic health of their soil.

Follow the link www.NDFieldCheck.com to participate in our next question and answer segment to share your questions and get them answered by the experts!

Connect with Soil Sense at Soil Sense Initiative

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

Field Check: Infiltration During Intense Rain Events

“We’ve been having significant rain events the last couple of years. 2 inches, 3 inches, 5 inches at a time. And I’m just curious, what can I do in my soil health program to ensure that the soil keeps as much rainfall as possible? I hate to see soil leaving my fields after working so hard in no till and cover crops to keep it in place.” – Bill Spiegel, Kansas Farmer and Successful Farming Magazine Editor

Dr. Aaron Daigh is an Associate Professor of Soil Physics and Hydrology at North Dakota State University in the Soil Science Department. His focus is studying how things move in the ground including water, chemicals, heat and the soil itself.

“When you get very heavy rainfall…..you can count on no matter what you’re doing out in the field that some portion of that is going to go to runoff because most soils just simply cannot take in that much water in that short of a period.” – Dr. Aaron Daigh

The water that is absorbed by the soil then adds value based on where it is stored. If it is stored shallow, in the first 6 inches, you can run into issues with “root rot, fungal diseases, wilting and drowning of that crop. “The portion of the water that goes deeper into the soil profile is ideal because you put water to where it can be stored for later for that crop when it’s needed.” Another added benefit to having water infiltrate deeper in the soil profile is keeping the soil stronger which will reduce future erosion and support equipment during harvest. Dr. Daigh suggests farmers make every attempt to not disrupt the soil anymore than necessary in order to increase its strength and contribute to water infiltration.

“Reducing the amount of disturbance that you have to that soil through aggressive tillage practices, helps get more water down these big macro pores that move water down deeper into the soil profile to be stored and prevent abundance of runoff and water erosion.” Dr. Aaron Daigh

Cover crops will also reduce disruption of soil by major rainfall which can be substantial. “The higher the residue rate, the slower that water’s going to move across and have a chance to infiltrate down into the soil and prevent what is running off from picking up speed as it goes down the landscape.”

Follow the link www.NDFieldCheck.com to participate in our next question and answer segment to share your questions and get them answered by the experts!

Connect with Soil Sense at Soil Sense Initiative

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

Field Check: Managing the Complexities of Adding a New Crop

“How do farmers add more crops in their cropping rotation and manage the complexity of doing that in their farm operation?”Jocelyn Velsestuk, Independent Agronomy Consultant for Western Ag, the President of the Saskatchewan Soil Conservation Association and a Director of The Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission

Dr. David Ripplinger is an Associate Professor in the Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics at North Dakota State University. He considers himself “an economist by training” but also a “systems thinker” and joins us to address Jocelyn’s question.

“I would start with extension. Go and talking to folks like us to get some information.” – Dr. David Ripplinger

Dr. Ripplinger has some calculated budgets that can give possible projected yields and earnings for the farmer to understand what the outcome of a more complex operation may be. He asks farmers to consider the economics, the impact a new crop would have on your soil and how that may affect your input needs in future years. Finally, farmers need to also consider how to market a new crop to know what additional resources that may require. “You should never put a seed in the ground before you know what the likely home for that crop is.”

“There’s these agronomic trade offs, there’s these financial trade offs….understand the system as a whole which I think farmers generally do. Understand that change you’re making. Do some quick back of the envelope work and then decide how much do I need to really look at this to pull the trigger.” -Dr. David Ripplinger

Follow the link www.NDFieldCheck.com to participate in our next question and answer segment to share your questions and get them answered by the experts!

Connect with Soil Sense at Soil Sense Initiative

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

Field Check: Getting Started with Cover Crops

“I’m getting the question about farmers wanting to plant a cover crop. But it’s kind of a generic statement. So I think what they’re really asking is what do I plant and when do I plant? Where do I start? Where do we begin on this journey? ” – Jason Hanson, Consultant with Rock and Roll Agronomy

Dr. Abbey Wick is a Soil Health Extension Specialist at North Dakota State University. She offers some great advice for farmers wanting to venture into cover crops and the many benefits they offer.

“The simplest place to start is if you have a wheat in rotation, just let the volunteer grow and that’s your first cover crop. If you have some additional goals that you want to address, whether its compaction in a field or salinity. Say you dig a hole in your field and the soil aggregates or the structure looks like it could use a little help then adding in some different cover crops to that volunteer wheat might be a good solution.” Dr. Abbey Wick

If you don’t have wheat in your rotation then Dr. Wick offers interseeding something like rye into corn. Interseeding practices may require different row spacing so farmers need to be aware of those potential changes. Soybeans present a different challenge as they produce a strong canopy that may make it difficult for a cover crop to get established. Dr. Wick recommends adjusting your timing and method of seeding to compensate for this obstacle.

Cover crops can help manage salinity issues where soybeans or corn may suffer. They can help provide structure and better trafficability to the field. Most farmers will start with one species of cover crop at a time but a cocktail of species can be used. Typically radish or rye can be used as first cover crops depending on what rotation that field has. There are pros and cons to each species and how they interact with what the next crop is. Dr Wick highlights that knowing the crop you are adding to your field, knowing the next crop in rotation to avoid any contraindicated cover crops and knowing your goals are the three critical things to consider when starting with cover crops.

“Cover crops don’t have to be fancy mixes and they don’t have to be really complex to work. And I think that’s what I want farmers to walk away with.” – Dr. Abbey Wick

Follow the link www.NDFieldCheck.com to participate in our next question and answer segment to share your questions and get them answered by the experts!

Connect with Soil Sense at Soil Sense Initiative

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

Field Check: Hybrid Rye

“Hybrid small grain varieties seem to be gaining traction in some parts of Canada and the United States. What are the benefits and drawbacks of hybrid rye, wheat and barley varieties?” – Luke Struckman, Researcher and University Instructor based in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Steve Zwinger is a Field Agronomist at the North Dakota State University Carrington Extension Center where he works with many cereal crops including hybrid varieties of rye.

“Some of these hybrids have been in in order to go over 200 or up to 200 bushels per acre range…..so the yield potential is there.” – Steve Zwinger

Steve continues with the hybrid rye advantages by explaining a shorter pollination window resulting in less ergot and a more uniform growth resulting in less lodge. With all of these advantages he does report a higher priced seed which depending on your market may not be worth the expense. At this time, Steve doesn’t know of too many farmers growing hybrid rye although seed production has begun.

There have been many attempts at producing a hybrid wheat. According to Steve “there are probably still people working on it, but there’s nothing commercially available.” Ultimately what was produced was not commercially viable enough to encourage ongoing research and development.

Follow the link www.NDFieldCheck.com to participate in our next question and answer segment to share your questions and get them answered by the experts!

Connect with Soil Sense at Soil Sense Initiative

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

Field Check: Fertility for No Till Corn

“What is the best way to get all your fertility down in a no-till corn situation, especially your P and K?” – Kyle Geske, a Farmer from Enderlin, North Dakota

Dr. Dave Franzen, an Extension Soil Specialist at North Dakota State University, joins us to answer Kyle’s question. Dr. Franzen has extensive experience in both research and retail agronomy. You may recognize him from Season one of Soil Sense Episode Three and Episode Four.

“It is really important in the northern plains, specifically in North Dakota, to use a starter at planting time, at least for the phosphate.” – Dr. Dave Franzen

Dr. Franzen has seen some significant yield increase in no-till corn operations that have employed a starter phosphate application. He shares that the weather for planting for a no-till operation results in cooler temperatures for those farmers. The additional phosphate will help support plants in the face of those cooler temperatures and lead to dramatic yield increases. He also highlights the need for additional nitrogen for the first 6 years of transition from a conventional till to no-till operation. There are 14 essential nutrients that the plants need, 10 of which we have effective testing for. Nitrate testing is probably the most valuable and most significant of all the values evaluated. He does caution any producer that is testing for Potassium. Potassium values change dramatically depending on the season so consistent testing at the same time every year is critical for evaluating potassium trends in the soil.

“And then the Sulfur Soil test. I know sometimes you get it as part of a soil test suite but it’s a horrible test and people shouldn’t even pay attention to it.” – Dr Dave Franzen

Follow the link www.NDFieldCheck.com to participate in our next question and answer segment to share your questions and get them answered by the experts!

Connect with Soil Sense at Soil Sense Initiative

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

Field Check: The Tradeoffs of Planting Green

“I like seeding soybeans green into growing  winter rye for a variety of reasons. I think trafficability and weed control are much better with 40 or 50 pounds of rye growing in the field. The tradeoff is that the rye and the existing stubble keep the ground colder and wetter in some years, so the soybeans have a hard time getting going. My question is, is there any way to have warmer drier ground in the spring and reap the other benefits of planting green?” – Nathan Neameyer, Farmer from Rolla, ND.

Dr. Lee Briese joins us to help answer Nathan’s question. Lee is a Crop Consultant covering Stutsman and Barnes Counties for Centrol Crop Consulting. Lee has been scouting fields and providing recommendations to farmers in North Dakota for over 20 years. Lee was featured in episode six of season one of Soil Sense.

Lee emphasizes that planting soybeans green into cereal rye does involve tradeoffs.

“It’s actually protecting the soil, reducing evaporation, and slowing down the heating of it, and that is a concern for him early season. But the rye is also doing the same thing to the weeds. It’s giving you weed control. It’s protecting your soil moisture loss. So it’s helping you with your seed bed and emergence. I think it’s one of those things at this point, I’m not sure we can have both.”  – Dr. Lee Briese

Lee says there are things that can be done to optimize the benefits of the cereal rye without slowing down the soybeans as much early on, such as reducing the planted population of rye or a wider row spacing. He also cautions to make sure that the concern is not just a matter of perception.

“We know that soybean tolerates a lot of difficulty, especially early in the season….so the appearance of the soybeans early on is not necessarily a critical factor. We do know that early planted soybeans – early flowering soybeans – have a better chance at having higher yields. But for much of North Dakota, the yield is fairly directly correlated to ‘when do we get rain during flowering?’.” – Dr. Lee Briese

Lee also recommends that farmers check their soil temps well into the season when evaluating the tradeoffs of planting green into cereal rye.

Follow the link www.NDFieldCheck.com to participate in our next question and answer segment to share your questions and get them answered by the experts!

Connect with Soil Sense at Soil Sense Initiative

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

Field Check: How to Revive Nutrient-Depleted Forage Ground

“Recently I bought a piece of land that most of it has been hay land for generations. So there’s been a lot of nutrients exported and I’ve been trying to intentionally replace nutrients. I was just wondering what kind of a cover crop strategy would you employ on something like that given the season, particularly for fall grazing? When would you sow? What would you sow? What kind of mixes? How much per acre? Mainly to be harvested as standing stockpile by cows and some sheep. How would you approach this piece of land that’s mostly 85% to 90% crested wheat at this point? What kind of cover crops would you introduce and why?” – Clay Conry, Host of Working Cows Podcast 

Dr. Kevin Sedivec joins us to help answer Clay’s question. Dr. Sedivec is the Extension Rangeland Management Specialist at North Dakota State University Extension and Director of the Central Grasslands Research Extension Center. You may remember him from Episode 006 of Soil Sense Season 2.

Dr. Sedivec shares that this is a common obstacle faced by producers. In trying to rejuvenate pastures for grazing, producers are asking annuals to compete with long established perennials. The perennial plants will take up water and will have contributed to a nitrogen deficient soil. Typically these long established perennials are exotic in origin and therefore do not have a natural symbiosis established with the environment.

“So you’re asking a grass to do something in that soil that it doesn’t naturally do because it’s not native. It becomes deficient of fertility is what’s really driving this. So we’re trying to bring something in to enhance that soil microbial population….the most common (legume) used is alfalfa.” – Dr. Kevin Sedivec

Unfortunately the long term fix for deficient soils takes more than one season. Dr. Sedivec recommends beginning with a legume mix to start the process. There are regional variations with which legume mix will be most successful and Dr. Sedivec recommends contacting your local NRCS or extension agent to find what suits your situation best. In Clay’s case he recommends using a yellow blossom alfalfa at 10 pounds per acre and either seeding in the fall or early spring.

“That will give them a long term fix of a legume with his grass. We’re putting exotics and exotics but it at least will help him, one, in terms of production and, two, it will help him in terms of soil fertility and soil microbial activity to kind of get that soil back into a healthy state.” – Dr. Kevin Sedivec

Ideally we would like to add more species to the mix but according to Dr. Sedivec “that’s probably the best we can do to enhance (Clay’s) production and quality in those soils in that stand.” Adding nitrogen can also help with helping to build the soils. An additive, such as urea, will not last long term but will provide benefit for the new crops planted as you build your soil. Strategies can be adjusted for more long term management including cover crops as the soils change. 

Follow the link www.NDFieldCheck.com to participate in our next question and answer segment to share your questions and get them answered by the experts!

Connect with Soil Sense at Soil Sense Initiative

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

Field Check: Cutworms in Soybeans Planted Green into Cover Crop

“I heard from a customer the other day about cutworms in a soybean field that was planted green into cereal rye. I was wondering if this is common and do we need to recommend scouting for cutworms or other pests when using cover crops?” – Chris Prochnow, Territory Manager for Agassiz Seed and Supply

 Dr. Janet Knodel, an extension entomologist at North Dakota State University, joins us to help answer Chris’s question. North Dakota is home to at least 32 different species of cutworms.

“Most (cutworms) do love weedy fields or grassy fields in the fall. So that’s probably why they ended up in the rye field is because it was seeded in the fall and that’s very attractive to most of the species of cutworms. And then they cause damage in the spring.” Dr. Janet Knodel

Eggs are laid in the soil usually in September. Some species will stay as eggs over winter and some will hatch into larvae. The larvae or caterpillar is the damaging stage. When scouting, look for evidence of defoliation, bare spots, or cut plants laying on the ground. Some species will clip the plant when it’s young and some will climb them and damage the leaves. The larvae and adult moth are active at night so they may not be readily apparent during the day.

“You pretty much just need to get out in the spring and scout and monitor the fields for infestation.” – Dr. Janet Knodel

Four or more larvae per foot of row is the threshold for wheat, barley, oats, and rye. You want to “implement your chemical controls” when they are smaller larvae. Towards the end of their feeding schedule, typically at the end of June, the larvae become more difficult to kill as they are more mature. Unfortunately, there aren’t any “forecasting models” for cutworm infestation. This makes it hard to predict which field they will infest and what environments they prefer. Dr. Knodel explains this is why regular scouting is critical to managing any potential infestation.

Follow the link www.NDFieldCheck.com to participate in our next question and answer segment to share your questions and get them answered by the experts!

Connect with Soil Sense at Soil Sense Initiative

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

Field Check: Considering Crop Rotation When Selecting Cover Crops

“I’m looking at cover crop mix to put on some ground that’s going to be seeded to wheat and barley next year. I’m wondering if barley works in that mix or if I should be looking at something else?” – Bryan Kenner of Kenner Farms

Dr. Andrew Friskop joins us to answer Bryan’s question. He is a cereal extension plant pathologist at North Dakota State University. Dr. Friskop begins tackling this question by pointing out that the focus needs to be on whether already present “diseases in barley could be contributing to next year’s barley crop.” Potential risk of residue borne diseases such as fungal leaf spots, net blotch, spot blotch and Fusarium head blight need to be evaluated and are typically of most concern. However, Dr Friskop does highlight that a cover crop mix creates a different environment than a monoculture environment would.

“We have a lot less plants. Those other plants might actually be barriers for some of that infection. So how I treat the situation is I would suggest that yes, there is a risk, but I wouldn’t consider it a high risk just because of some of those other factors.” – Dr. Andrew Friskop

 

While introducing plants that may transmit disease is not ideal it seems the cover crop mix environment makes the risk of that unlikely. The two biggest risk factors for cover crops spreading disease involve soybean cyst nematode in soybeans and clubroot in canola. You ultimately want to avoid a “pathogen and disease system that’s very difficult to manage once you have it.” All that being said, “mother nature always throws us curve balls.”

 

“We handle each season as a separate year and we just look at managing the wheat and barley crop to the best of our ability for each year.” – Dr. Andrew Friskop

 

Follow the link www.NDFieldCheck.com to participate in our next question and answer segment to share your questions and get them answered by the experts!

 

Connect with Soil Sense at Soil Sense Initiative

 

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

Field Check: Cereal Rye for Kochia Control + Dicamba Update

 Introducing Soil Sense: Field Check. We find the right expert to answer YOUR questions about anything related to farming, agronomy, and soil health. We invite you to participate at www.NDFieldCheck.com.

Today’s question comes from Jason Hanson of Rock & Roll Agronomy:

“There’s going to be Prevented Plant, and now with the uncertainty of dicamba registrations moving forward, even though North Dakota is a 24(c): How does winter cereal rye help with controlling kochia as a potential other option?”

To answer this excellent question that Jason has been getting, we enlisted the help of North Dakota State University Extension Weed Specialist Dr. Joe Ikley. Joe is based in Fargo and is responsible for all crops in the state except potatoes and sugar beets. He conducts weed control research primarily in corn, soybeans, and dry beans.

Listen to this short Field Check episode for Dr. Ikley’s full answer, but here is one quote you may find helpful:

“When we look at an overwintering cover crop like rye, we get our best weed control on winter annual weeds, but of course kochia is a summer annual weed…. (rye) does not reduce the number of plants that we are going to have to spray, but it does buy us more time to get a timely herbicide application on there.” 

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

Sponsors