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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.

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    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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    Understanding Conservation Easements

    Conservation easements are a common, yet often misunderstood, real estate transaction tool. This article is intended to provide factual information regarding the rules and regulations that govern the use of conservation easements in South Dakota. Source citations include references to both direct sources and compilations that include additional references to law, case law, and easement publications.

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    Outstanding Stewardship by the Rock Hills Ranch in North Central South Dakota

    Achieving “sustainability” requires decisions unique to every operation and will vary depending on production systems. Rock Hills Ranch, operated by the Perman families, has been recognized for their decisions and the management practices they have implemented to steward their resources sustainably.

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    Grassland Weed Control

    When controlling grassland weeds, the mindset of row crop weed control is put into practice too often. In most cases, broadcast control of weeds in grasslands is rarely necessary. Most often, spot or zone spraying can be used more effectively to manage the noxious and problematic weeds. What is zone spraying? Well, let us take a moment and consider this in a different context. For example, in basketball when a player is on defense, he is not chasing other players all over the court. Instead, he is defending a certain area and not the whole basketball court.

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    2017 June Beetle Update

    In South Dakota, true white grubs have steadily become a significant issue for rangeland and pasture. During the second and third year of their lifecycle, the white grub larvae feed on a large amount of root tissue and leave behind barren or brown circular patches in rangelands. The adults of the true white grub are commonly referred to as June beetles.

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    The A, B, Cs of Food Production: Almonds, Bees, and Cooperation

    According to 2015 UN estimations by 2050 the U.S. will have a population of 402 million, 25% greater than today. In order to feed this population and sustain the country’s economy through commodities’ exports, agricultural output needs to increase by a similar amount by that year. These figures are projections based on current population and food production dynamics. One critical component of this equation is going to be the presence of enough pollinator activity. Pollinators are crucial to maintain global food production and a healthy ecosystem.

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    Black Grass Bugs in South Dakota

    Black grass bugs are an occasional pest of grasslands in South Dakota. They are native to the Great Plains and typically occur in low numbers. However, black grass bug populations can build over time, especially in areas where wheatgrasses are dominant. Large populations of black grass bugs can cause considerable damage (up to 90% forage reduction) to range and pastures. Although we have not received any reports yet this year, it is important to be aware of black grass bugs and to monitor their populations each spring.

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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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    Noxious Weed Control in Pasture and Range

    Noxious weed control in pastures is becoming more of a challenge. Most ground commercial spray businesses are no longer spraying pastures. If they are, there may be restrictions on the time they will spray, what products they will spray, or they may only spray if they also have all of the rest of your spraying business.

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    Time to Revisit Drought Plans for the Ranch

    The South Dakota Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) recently released two maps highlighting the current grass production estimates and projected peak grass production estimates for South Dakota. These maps updated monthly by the NRCS indicate dry conditions spreading east into areas of North-Central and South-Central South Dakota. Ranchers in Central and Western South Dakota need to start re-visiting their drought management plans and making adjustments if needed.

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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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    Mid-Missouri River Prescribed Burn Association Holds Annual Meeting

    South Dakota’s first ever prescribed burn association held its first annual meeting March 3 in Bonesteel, SD. The Mid-Missouri River Prescribed Burn Association (MMRPBA) was initially formed by ranchers and landowners in Gregory County and now comprises roughly 35 landowners in Gregory, Lyman, Charles Mix, and Brule Counties. The primary goal of the MMRPBA is to control cedar tree infestation and improve grassland health by conducting prescribed fires mainly in land along the Missouri River and surrounding areas.

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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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    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.

    Read More »

    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.

    Read More »

    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.

    Read More »

    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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    SDDA Sensitive Site Registry: Protecting sensitive areas from chemical drift

    The SD Dept. of Ag. recently announced updates to the Sensitive Site Registry. First launched in 2013, the Sensitive Site Registry is designed for producers and applicators (private and commercial) to better understand where chemical and fertilizer drift and misapplications are to be avoided. This registry has the potential to be an excellent tool in fostering positive communications between those who apply chemicals and those who are concerned with drift, and SDDA specifically created the registry to provide information about farms and ranches that would be adversely affected by accidental fertilizer or pesticide application or drift.

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    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.

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    NRCS Cropping Systems Inventory: Landowner & agency cooperation important for soil health

    Late last year South Dakota NRCS State Conservationist Jeff Zimprich announced the release of the latest South Dakota Cropping Systems Inventory (formerly referred to as the “CTIC residue management survey”) at the joint annual meeting of Ag Horizons and the South Dakota Association of Conservation Districts.   The data contained in this inventory is valuable to anyone participating in agriculture and natural resource conservation in South Dakota.  

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    Fall Grazing of Cover Crops

    If you are considering planting a cover crop after grain harvest, consider whether the planting might also serve as fall forage for livestock. Cover crops planted after harvesting a major cash crop can serve multiple benefits. Not only can they help prevent soil erosion, provide organic matter, and scavenge nitrogen, but an additional benefit can come from using cover crops as forage for livestock grazing.

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    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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