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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.

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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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    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. Prairie dogs are an important component of the grassland ecosystem, providing habitat to numerous plant and animal species. They can consume or damage large amounts of vegetation and become a problem for livestock producers when they compete with livestock for forage.

    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 »

    Management for Recovery of Rangeland after Wildfire

    The recent Cottonwood wildfire that occurred October 16-19, 2016 east of Wall, SD burned over 40,000 acres of grassland. Dealing with the financial loss of killed livestock, miles of fence that will need repair, lost winter pasture, and burned up hay is bad enough. The impact that wildfires have on next year’s forage production also is of concern.

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    Rosebud Youth Range Camp Held this Summer

    Children of the Sicangu Oyate (Rosebud Sioux Tribe) had the opportunity to participate in the first 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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    Scouting for Grasshoppers in South Dakota Rangeland

    As summer progresses, the number of adult grasshoppers observed in South Dakota rangeland typically increases. Based on current reports, it would seem that 2016 is following this trend. If grasshopper populations reach high enough densities they can be very destructive to rangeland. For this reason, it is important to monitor grasshopper populations so management actions can be taken before economic damage occurs.

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    Rotational Grazing and Land Conversion in South Dakota

    Grassland to cropland conversion raises concerns due to its many potential environmental implications. First of all, the conversion is damaging for many grassland-dependent species, which include North American duck species that nest in the area, grassland songbirds and prairie butterflies. In addition, increased use of fertilizers and chemicals on cropland, and elimination of buffers that ­filter farm runoff could cause secondary effects such as downstream water pollution

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    Drought

    As South Dakota's farmers, ranchers and communities deal with the challenges brought on by drought conditions impacting more than half the state, SDSU Extension is connecting individuals with resources and research-based information.

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    Focus on Grazing Management, Not Grazing ‘Systems’

    The Society for Range Management held its 69th annual conference in Corpus Christi Texas in February. This year’s theme was ‘Wildlife and Range’, and as always, the conference was filled with many informative presentations by individuals working and living in wildlife and rangeland fields. 

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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.

    Read More »

    Using the ‘Grazing Stick’ to Assess Pasture Forage

    Assessing pasture forage is a key step in planning grazing strategies, especially if one is utilizing grazing as a tool toward wildlife habitat or other grassland conservation objectives. Although most producers understand the importance of assessing production for livestock gain, few invest the time necessary to clip and weigh vegetation within and across seasons in order to build a long-term database for their pastures. In addition, conservation landowners may not feel they have the ‘knowledge’ to challenge grazing contractors on what they may perceive as undesirable pasture management. Recognizing this inherent need, range managers have developed simplified tools that allow rapid estimation of forage production and availability in pastures without the need to continuously clip and weigh vegetation. One of these tools is the common ‘grazing stick’.

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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. Prairie dogs are an important component of the grassland ecosystem, providing habitat to numerous plant and animal species. They can consume or damage large amounts of vegetation and become a problem for livestock producers when they compete with livestock for forage.

    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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    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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    SDSU Survey on Land Use Decisions Highlights Role of Grasslands

    The issue of land use and grassland conversion to croplands remains a central topic in the agriculture and natural resources arenas. Generally speaking, grassland conversion is described in two primary ways, the first being conversion…or re-conversion…of ‘tame’ grasslands such as Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres and old tame grass hayfields and pastures to row-crop agriculture.

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    New Grassland CRP Offers Grazing Options

    In September 2015, the USDA launched a new Conservation Reserve Program option called ‘CRP grasslands’. While not perfect, this new program took a major step toward improved management and utilization of expiring CRP and GRP acres under a ‘working lands’ philosophy while retaining the inherent value of the grass cover for wildlife, water, and recreation. This new program was brought about largely by feedback provided by CRP landowners and conservation groups alike.

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    Governor’s Habitat Work Group Report: A Synopsis

    In September 2014 the Governor’s Pheasant Habitat Work group made public their report to Governor Daugaard containing recommendations for eight conservation measures to be considered for improved pheasant habitat in South Dakota. The report came after nearly 9 months of work stemming from the December 2013 Governors Pheasant Habitat Summit which provided an opportunity for South Dakotans to give input and suggestions regarding the steep decline in pheasants and pheasant habitat in recent years, jeopardizing a marquee South Dakota industry.

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    Planning CRP and Grassland Mixes for Future Grazing

    The history of federal involvement in soil preservation dates back to dust bowl era of the 1930’s with the 1933 Agricultural Adjustment Act. This was the first in a long series of ‘Farm Bills’ that continue to guide our soil and water conservation strategies today. Currently, one of the most popular soil conservation programs is the Conservation Reserve Program, or CRP as it is commonly known. CRP is cooperatively administered under the US Department of Agriculture’s Farm Services Agency (FSA) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

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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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    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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