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    2017 Leopold Award Celebrates Ranching And Conservation

    On April 21, Governor Daugaard announced the Blue Bell Ranch near Clear Lake, SD as the 2017 winner of the South Dakota Leopold Conservation Award. The Blue Bell is owned and operated by Herb and Beverly Hamann and their two children Arlo and Breck.

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    Land Use Conversion Trends in the East Dakotas

    In recent years, the Western Corn Belt has been highlighted as an area where cropland acres have expanded at the expense of grassland cover loss. To better understand land use change from a producer’s perspective, a survey on land operators’ views was carried out in Eastern South Dakota and North Dakota in spring 2015.

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    Conservation Stewardship Program: FY 2017 application due Feb. 3

    The USDA Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) is the largest working lands conservation program in the United States with more than 70 million acres of productive agricultural and forest land enrolled. Through CSP, agricultural producers and forest landowners earn payments for actively managing, maintaining, and expanding conservation activities like cover crops, rotational grazing, ecologically-based pest management, buffer strips, and pollinator and beneficial insect habitat, all while maintaining active agricultural production on their land.

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    Give the Gift of Conservation This Christmas

    The SDSU Natural Resources Management Department and SDSU Extension would like to wish all our readers a Merry Christmas and remind everyone that if you are shopping for a late holiday gift, consider giving the gift of conservation to yourself or someone else.

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    New SDSU Extension report provides status of native grasslands & woodlands in Eastern S.D.

    SDSU Extension, in partnership with a variety of non-government, state, and federal agencies, has recently released a public report on the status of native plant communities in Eastern South Dakota. The report is based on a comprehensive look at the Eastern South Dakota landscape that incorporated the use of field and tract-level historic Farm Service Agency (FSA) cropland history, coupled with high resolution aerial photographs provided through the USDA National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP).

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    Fall Fire Safety

    Although most people associate wildfire season with the hot, dry peak of summer, the recent Cottonwood fire provides a strong reminder of the importance of fire safety throughout the year. This fire consumed over 40,000 acres of grassland, causing significant damage to livestock, structures, and other property in the process.

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    Winter Cereals Provide Nesting Habitat

    Winter cereal grains, such as wheat and rye, can offer an alternative option for producers seeking to improve bird nesting habitat on cropland within their operations. Although they cannot replace the higher quality habitat provided by perennial grass stands, a study by South Dakota State University researchers found that winter wheat can provide favorable surrogate nesting and brood-rearing habitat for pheasants.

    Read More »

    Diversity and Partnerships are Keys to Preventing Endangered Species Impacts

    South Dakota’s farmers and ranchers have significant influence on the management of our state’s natural resources, especially grasslands, water and the species that inhabit these areas. The continuing conversation on water quality and buffer strips promises to serve as yet another reminder of the importance of natural resources management for the greater good.

    Read More »

    Campfire Safety in Drought Conditions

    Recently, fire authorities in California announced that a large wildfire in their state was sparked by an illegal campfire that, although contained in a fire pit, was not completely extinguished. When drought conditions exist, as they currently do in many areas of western South Dakota, this simple act can result in catastrophic damage to land, wildlife, structures and human lives.

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    Another Successful Rosebud Youth Range Camp Held This Past Summer

    Children of the Sicangu Oyate (Rosebud Sioux Tribe) had the opportunity to participate in the second annual youth range workshop near Rosebud this summer. The workshop provided an excellent learning environment for children to physically be on the land learning about grasses, forbs, and shrubs that make up the prairie.

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    Possible Prussic Acid and Alkaloid Issues in Reed Canary Grass

    Reed canary grass and its many subtypes are a common introduced/planted and native/wild grass in South Dakota that is often associated with wetland edges, saturated soils, and occasionally on moist to dry slopes extending out from wet or saturated soils.

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    Fall Climate Outlook 2017

    Fall harvest season is upon us, although the corn and soybean crops are slow to mature and dry down this year. Corn in the East Central Region has been slow to progress this year, as it has been behind average on accumulating growing degree days throughout the late summer.

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    Fall Noxious Weed Control

    Fall weed control can give the best weed control but it also can be a poor time. If the noxious weeds were sprayed or clipped earlier this summer and there is good weed growth now, this would be a good time to spray these weeds and get a good kill.

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    Grassland Management Do’s and Don’ts: Introduction

    This is the first in a series of iGrow articles that will be dedicated the issues and questions addressing the variety of questions we receive related to establishing, re-establishing, and maintaining grass-based plantings for grazing, hay, wildlife, and recreation.

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    Playing in the Sandbox at Dakotafest 2017

    During Dakotafest 2017 (August 15 - 17) under the SDSU Extension tent, both young and old alike will have the opportunity to literally play in a sandbox—and possibly learn a little something about how watersheds work at the same time.

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    Grasshopper Populations Exceeding Thresholds in Eastern South Dakota

    We have been monitoring grasshopper populations in the Eastern part of the state throughout the summer. Initially populations appeared to be relatively low, but we are now observing and also receiving reports of grasshopper populations that are at thresholds or have greatly exceeded them.

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    Grazing Management Strategy: Combating drought and increasing long-term economic profit

    Grasslands in the U.S. are threatened by overgrazing, increasingly frequent and severe drought, and land use change. It is therefore vital for grassland managers to maintain resilient ecosystems while optimizing long-term economic returns.

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    FSA Programs for Drought Assistance

    Drought conditions across a growing number of South Dakota counties have many livestock producers facing forage shortages. The Agriculture Act of 2014, most commonly known as the 2014 Farm Bill, includes programs designed to assist livestock producers facing extended drought conditions.

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    S.D. Rangeland/Soil Days Recap: Rangeland management learning opportunities

    The East Pennington Conservation District hosted the 34th Annual South Dakota Rangeland Days and 13th Annual Soils Days in Wall and Wasta, S.D. with more than 110 people participating. The Rangeland/Soils Days program is an annual event that moves to a different location within the state every two years.

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    Haying With Wildlife in Mind

    Spring rains are starting to give way to sunshine and warmer days across much of the state. This shift in the seasons has many producers looking forward to getting into the fields to start putting up hay. Anyone who has spent time cutting hay knows that hayland can be a magnet for wildlife in late spring and early summer.

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    11th Annual Bird Tour: Highlighting Northwest S.D. Resources

    For over a decade the South Dakota Grassland Coalition has partnered with many organizations, including SDSU Extension, to bring the annual “Birds: At Home on the Range” birding tour to farms and ranches across South Dakota. This year, all are invited to attend the 11th annual tour to be held near Meadow, South Dakota at the Dan and Sharon Anderson Ranch on June 9th and 10th.

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    Promoting Dung Beetles on the Range

    In South Dakota, cattle production on rangelands is a very important industry. To support this industry, it is essential that our rangelands are well cared for. A key contributor of maintaining a healthy rangeland is the presence of a healthy insect community. This community consists of many beneficial insects including pollinators, predators, and decomposers. One of the most influential of these beneficial insects are the dung beetles.

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    Pasture Bugs N’ Grubs Road Show Coming to South Dakota

    Spring is arriving throughout South Dakota and it signals the return of insects to the landscape. As the snow melts, it is a time when many tasks such as calving, pasture management, and fence maintenance begin in earnest. With many pressing needs to tend to, many ranchers may not find the time to consider the role insects play on their ranch.

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    Land-Use Change Decisions: Motivations in the Eastern Dakotas

    There has been moderate to extensive land use conversion activity in the Western Corn Belt, where corn and soybeans are the dominant cropland use. To understand motivations of land use change from producers’ perspective, a survey on land operators’ views was carried out in east river South Dakota and North Dakota in spring 2015. The motivators for land use choice from the producers’ perspective were ranked, which showed the average rating of the 1026 respondents.

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    Prairie Dog Management in South Dakota

    Prairie dogs are highly social animals belonging to the squirrel family. There are five species of prairie dogs in North America. It is the black-tailed prairie dog with its tan color and short black tipped tail, that resides in South Dakota.

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    Effect of Oil & Natural Gas Development on White-tailed Deer Populations

    Oil and natural gas extraction has expanded in Western North Dakota and Northwestern South Dakota in recent years. Research in Western states found that expanding oil and natural gas development can negatively impact many wildlife species, especially large mammals such as mule deer, elk, and pronghorn. No research has been completed on impacts of development on white-tailed deer, and white-tailed deer responses to expanding oil and natural gas development have been unknown.

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    Winter Cereals Provide Nesting Habitat

    Winter cereal grains, such as wheat and rye, can offer an alternative option for producers seeking to improve bird nesting habitat on cropland within their operations. Although they cannot replace the higher quality habitat provided by perennial grass stands, a study by South Dakota State University researchers found that winter wheat can provide favorable surrogate nesting and brood-rearing habitat for pheasants.

    Read More »

    Diversity and Partnerships are Keys to Preventing Endangered Species Impacts

    South Dakota’s farmers and ranchers have significant influence on the management of our state’s natural resources, especially grasslands, water and the species that inhabit these areas. The continuing conversation on water quality and buffer strips promises to serve as yet another reminder of the importance of natural resources management for the greater good.

    Read More »

    South Dakota’s Prairie Potholes are Important for Spring Migrating Ducks

    Prairie pothole wetlands are so important to ducks that the area where they’re found, which comprises portions of South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, and southern Prairie Canada, is commonly called North America’s Duck Factory. Together with the native grasslands that often surround prairie potholes, these ecosystems play host to nearly half of all the nesting ducks counted in North America annually.

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    Cover Crops & Livestock Integration: An opportunity for profit on S.D. farms

    Cover crops have been gaining a reemerging acceptance over the last decade, with very few producers disagreeing about the potential soil health benefits of adding cover crops to their farming operation. However, with low commodity prices producers are trying to reduce expenses on inputs, especially on inputs with a varying or unknown return.

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    S.D. Rangeland/Soil Days Recap: Rangeland management learning opportunities

    The East Pennington Conservation District hosted the 34th Annual South Dakota Rangeland Days and 13th Annual Soils Days in Wall and Wasta, S.D. with more than 110 people participating. The Rangeland/Soils Days program is an annual event that moves to a different location within the state every two years.

    Read More »

    Creative Tillage

    In a number of tilled fields this fall there appears to be an attempt to improve soil health. Creative or recreational tillage has been applied to certain upland areas of some fields to possibly control rill and gully erosion while drainage ways were not tilled. The thought process behind the tillage pattern used in the picture assumes that water will run-off the steeper slopes and the absence of tillage in the waterways will slow or prevent gully erosion. This is only a Band-Aid approach to solving a bigger problem with water infiltration into the soil on hill slopes and waterways.

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    Keep Carbon in the Picture: Modifying the cut and carry system

    After a recent trip to Ethiopia, I began thinking about how farming on the steep, terraced hillsides of the rural highlands there might relate to agriculture across the rolling plains of South Dakota. As part of the Farmer-to-Farmer Program, jointly sponsored by USAID and Catholic Relief Services, I had the opportunity to speak with nearly 300 smallholder farmers about fertility and soil health.

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    Weed Control & Soil Health Go Hand-in-Hand

    Most people would not combine soil health and weed control. South Dakota Soil Health Coalition put on a soil health soil in Aberdeen, SD on September 21 through 23. Many farmers, ranchers and area agronomy professionals attended the meeting. This event is growing each year. Make sure to attend next year or visit the South Dakota Soil Health Coalition website for up-to-date information.

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    Beadle County Conservation District Demonstration Farm: Improving Soil Health

    High saline soil on cropland is a growing concern for producers in the Dakotas, especially in the James River Valley. The Beadle County Conservation District is tackling this issue through their demonstration farm by showcasing alternative farming practices. In the 1990s, the Beadle County Conservation District acquired approximately 400 acres of crop land just south of Huron, SD.

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    Soil Health on Rangelands: Nutrient Cycle

    In this final article on rangeland soil health, I want to focus on the nutrient cycle. How would you know if a pasture is showing signs of an efficient or good nutrient cycle? We monitor the nutrient cycle by looking for signs of living organisms (at both small and large scales) and how the litter builds up or decays.

    Read More »

    Soil Health on Rangelands: Water Cycle

    In the last iGrow article I wrote, I discussed soil health and the biotic state. In this article, I want to focus on the water cycle. How would you know if a pasture is showing signs of an inefficient water cycle? Indicators to evaluate the water cycle include gullies, blowouts, pedestaling, water flow patterns, and amount of litter.

    Read More »

    Soil Health on Rangelands: Biotic State

    In the last iGrow article about soil health on rangelands, I wrote about energy flow. In this article, I want to focus on the biotic state. Being able to identify plants and how they respond to grazing, drought, fire, etc. is key to monitoring the health of your rangeland vegetation and ultimately your soils.

    Read More »

    Soil Health on Rangelands: Energy Flow

    Soil health is picking up notoriety not only in farm and ranch circles, but it’s starting to hit the mainstream. I think the best way to think about soil health is actually from a holistic viewpoint. This holistic framework offers the “Big Picture” of how the ecosystem works. Energy flow is driven by the solar input from the sun and the uptake of CO2 through photosynthesis. Energy is displayed in two forms, kinetic and potential.

    Read More »

    Playing in the Sandbox at Dakotafest 2017

    During Dakotafest 2017 (August 15 - 17) under the SDSU Extension tent, both young and old alike will have the opportunity to literally play in a sandbox—and possibly learn a little something about how watersheds work at the same time.

    Read More »

    Agricultural Water Testing Project

    Subsurface drainage water can look clean to the eye when coming out the end of a pipe. However, it doesn’t always mean it is. Tile water can carry with it high concentrations of dissolved nutrients such as nitrate-nitrogen which can contribute to the eutrophication of surface water. Eutrophication can be defined as the enrichment of a water body with nutrients; stimulating the growth of aquatic plants and depleting the dissolved oxygen content of the water as the plants decompose.

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    Saturated Buffers for Drainage Water Treatment in S.D.

    Saturated buffers can be an effective technique for removing nitrates from tile drainage water before they are released into waterways. A saturated buffer is essentially a perennially-vegetated riparian buffer with a raised water table. To raise the water table, drainage water is diverted through drainage tile that is placed parallel to the stream and below the riparian buffer.

    Read More »

    Soil Health on Rangelands: Nutrient Cycle

    In this final article on rangeland soil health, I want to focus on the nutrient cycle. How would you know if a pasture is showing signs of an efficient or good nutrient cycle? We monitor the nutrient cycle by looking for signs of living organisms (at both small and large scales) and how the litter builds up or decays.

    Read More »

    Soil Health on Rangelands: Water Cycle

    In the last iGrow article I wrote, I discussed soil health and the biotic state. In this article, I want to focus on the water cycle. How would you know if a pasture is showing signs of an inefficient water cycle? Indicators to evaluate the water cycle include gullies, blowouts, pedestaling, water flow patterns, and amount of litter.

    Read More »

    Soil Health on Rangelands: Biotic State

    In the last iGrow article about soil health on rangelands, I wrote about energy flow. In this article, I want to focus on the biotic state. Being able to identify plants and how they respond to grazing, drought, fire, etc. is key to monitoring the health of your rangeland vegetation and ultimately your soils.

    Read More »

    Soil Health on Rangelands: Energy Flow

    Soil health is picking up notoriety not only in farm and ranch circles, but it’s starting to hit the mainstream. I think the best way to think about soil health is actually from a holistic viewpoint. This holistic framework offers the “Big Picture” of how the ecosystem works. Energy flow is driven by the solar input from the sun and the uptake of CO2 through photosynthesis. Energy is displayed in two forms, kinetic and potential.

    Read More »

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