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    Ag Sustainability in High School Classrooms: Professional development training

    In an effort to educate today’s youth about sustainable agriculture, SDSU Extension field specialists teamed up with educators from University of Nebraska Lincoln (UNL) and presented a four-hour training session for South Dakota high school teachers on January 5, 2018 at the SDSU Student Union.

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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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    Land Use Conversion Trends in the East Dakotas

    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.

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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.

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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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    Healthy Grasslands Series: Swath/Bale Grazing (16 of 31)

    Grazing and mowing are both proven techniques for harvesting grassland biomass, and both have advantages and disadvantages in relation to timing, efficiency, and input expenses. Swath grazing and bale grazing are harvest systems that mesh haying and grazing techniques.

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    2018 Western South Dakota Grasshopper Forecast

    In South Dakota, there are several species of grasshoppers that can have a negative impact on rangeland health. The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) conducts an annual survey to monitor grasshopper populations in Western South Dakota.

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    Healthy Grasslands Series: Haying & Mowing/Clipping (15 of 31)

    While grazing is the primary means of harvesting the majority of South Dakota's native grasslands, haying also plays an important role in native and tame grassland management. Haying impacts individual grassland species and grassland communities in ways that are both similar and different from grazing or fire.

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    Healthy Grasslands Series: General Principles of Grazing Management (11 of 31)

    Grazing involves a number of variables, including: carrying capacity of the land, type and distribution of the livestock, water distribution, and number of pastures. A combination of both proper grazing techniques and grassland management will improve harvest efficiency and lower production costs.

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    Grazing & Recreation on South Dakota School & Public Lands

    At a recent meeting of the South Dakota Grassland Coalition, Ryan Brunner Commissioner of State School and Public Lands, provided excellent information for those interested in understanding more about grazing and hunting on South Dakota School and Public Lands.

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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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    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 »

    Soil Health Video’s Now Available for Viewing on YouTube!

    In recent years’ soil health has become a popular subject for many farmers and ranchers across South Dakota. Producers are interested in increasing soil health through methods that increase diversity, retain covers and residue on the soil surface, utilize low soil disturbance, and integrate livestock into cropping systems.

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    Ag Sustainability in High School Classrooms: Professional development training

    In an effort to educate today’s youth about sustainable agriculture, SDSU Extension field specialists teamed up with educators from University of Nebraska Lincoln (UNL) and presented a four-hour training session for South Dakota high school teachers on January 5, 2018 at the SDSU Student Union.

    Read More »

    North Central Region Soil Health & Water Quality Initiative

    Earlier this month, I travelled to Indianapolis, IN to attend a meeting sponsored by the North Central Region Soil Health Nexus. The meeting was a kickoff to discuss a new grant the Nexus was recently awarded entitled "Empower Educators to Improve Water Quality by Adoption of Soil Health Practices.”

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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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    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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    Road Salt & Water Quality: Growing Concern in Some Northern States

    I recently came across an article from the Associated Press addressing road salt and the nation's waterways. Many of you may have seen the article too as a number of local media outlets elected to carry it. While road salt is almost a necessity in our part of the country, it can come at a cost.

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    North Central Region Soil Health & Water Quality Initiative

    Earlier this month, I travelled to Indianapolis, IN to attend a meeting sponsored by the North Central Region Soil Health Nexus. The meeting was a kickoff to discuss a new grant the Nexus was recently awarded entitled "Empower Educators to Improve Water Quality by Adoption of Soil Health Practices.”

    Read More »

    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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    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.

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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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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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