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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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    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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    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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    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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    Welded connections and shallow bury pasture pipe offers alternative to above ground systems

    Above ground systems offer a great amount of flexibility in delivering water and options for changing pasture designs over time or space. They have also become increasingly popular with the advances in solar water and fence technology along with an increasing number of producers preferring to rotate livestock more often. Quick compression fittings and a variety of adapters for several thread types allow for excellent flexibility. However, some producers do not desire to maintain as much flexibility in their systems, and for those individuals more permanent options exist without going to a deep-bury system.

    Read More »

    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).

    Read More »

    Optimizing Cattle & Timber Production: Balancing economic & ecologic interests

    About 16% of all grazed land area in the United States is forested, and most of the livestock grazing of forested lands occurs in the Western U.S. While livestock grazing of forested lands has been occurring since the settlement era, relationships between livestock and timber management practices, and resource condition are not well understood. Silvopasture is being promoted by the USDA National Agroforestry Center as a practice that sustainably maximizes economic returns from combined livestock and timber production.

    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.

    Read More »

    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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    Swift Fox Status on South Dakota’s Grasslands

    The swift fox (Vulpes velox) is a small fox native to the short and mixed-grass prairies of the Great Plains. In 2014, I began my master’s research at South Dakota State University monitoring the population of swift foxes around Badlands National Park in southwestern South Dakota. This population has recently declined, possibly due to various biotic and abiotic factors.

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    Wildlife and the Bottom Line

    As the fall harvest wraps up and this year’s calf crop is weaned, many producers may be nervous about what their paychecks will look like for 2016. In tough market conditions, it can be tempting to try to squeeze just a bit more production out of the land. However, these incremental increases in production often come at the cost of increasingly expensive inputs and may jeopardize the long-term health of your natural resources.

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    Unveiling Bison Summer Diet Selection at Northern Fringe of Historical Distribution

    Bison were historically distributed throughout North America with the Northern edge of the distribution occurring in North Central Manitoba and surrounding provinces. Despite occupying the boreal zone of North America, little is known of bison forage selection patterns when occupying a densely forested aspen ecosystem. In a global review of more than 60 ruminant species, bison were classified as grass-roughage feeders primarily consuming grasses, sedges and rushes.

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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 »

    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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    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 »

    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.

    Read More »

    Welded connections and shallow bury pasture pipe offers alternative to above ground systems

    Above ground systems offer a great amount of flexibility in delivering water and options for changing pasture designs over time or space. They have also become increasingly popular with the advances in solar water and fence technology along with an increasing number of producers preferring to rotate livestock more often. Quick compression fittings and a variety of adapters for several thread types allow for excellent flexibility. However, some producers do not desire to maintain as much flexibility in their systems, and for those individuals more permanent options exist without going to a deep-bury system.

    Read More »

    Recent changes in above-ground pasture pipe requires matching pipe and fittings correctly

    Above ground water systems have become a very popular tool to deliver clean water from reliable sources to pastures across South Dakota. Recently, there have been some changes in manufacturing and suppliers that are worthy of note as producers and suppliers design systems. We wanted to share an example of a recent above ground pasture pipe installation project SDSU Extension assisted with.

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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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