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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.