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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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    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.

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    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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    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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    Pasture, Rangeland, Forage Rainfall Index (PRF-RI) Insurance for 2018

    Sporadic rainfall early in 2017 focused attention on insurance for pasture and forages for livestock feed. The primary product, Pasture, Rangeland, and Forage (PRF) insurance, is offered nationwide. In South Dakota the coverage is based on a Rainfall Index (PRF-RI) with indemnity payments tied to a lack of rainfall in a given area.

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    Tax Implications of Drought Induced Livestock Sales

    As South Dakota producers affected by severe drought have either made non-traditional livestock sales or plan to sell a larger than normal number of breeding animals in 2017, this article provides information and examples about two different tax treatments producers should be talking to their tax advisor or consultant about.

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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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    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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    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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    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.

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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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    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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    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.

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    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.

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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 »

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