Submitted by Jeremiah Ulmer, Soil Conservation District Technician
The James River Soil Conservation District would like to congratulate our 2019 Scholarship winner Erich H. Scheffert, Oakes. Erich submitted his winning essay on the topic of the importance of wetland conservation in the Prairie Pothole Region. He is currently attending the North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton. The 2020 scholarship information is available on the James River SCD website. The deadline is July 1, 2020.
What is all the white stuff on top of the soil? These areas are called alkali/saline seeps. A saline seep is a white spot of salty soil. These areas are caused by water flowing through the soil, picking up salts and other nutrients, surfacing at the seep, and evaporating, leaving the salts behind. Saline seeps are becoming a real problem in Dickey County cropland fields.
How do we get rid of the seep? These seep areas DO NOT need to be tilled, thinking they will dry out. This only evaporates the water faster. They do not need manure applied to them. They are already high in nutrients and obviously salts.
Farmers can help by squaring off areas around water or in low lying areas, seed the entire area to salt tolerant alfalfa, and then go back in and seed salt tolerant grasses in the saline seep areas. The seeps can extend farther than you can see on the surface. They can be as small as 1 acre. They can also be up to 25 acres or even more.
Studies on the above-mentioned method have shown great success with the white salty areas getting smaller. Having vegetation growing and utilizing the water in the soil is the best way to fix these areas. Producers can also try to hay the vegetation several times a year to keep the alfalfa and grass growing to continue to use the water in the soil and not let it evaporate. By doing this, it keeps the salts lower in the soil.
Cover crops have many benefits to you and to your soil! Some of the main benefits are reducing soil compaction, managing nitrogen and nutrients, reducing soil erosion, improving water holding capacity, and controlling weed growth. Certain plants in a cover crop mix may grow tap roots that force their way into the compaction layer of your soil to break it apart. Most of the small grains that we plant in our county don’t use all the nitrogen that is in the ground. Therefore, the roots of legumes found in cover crop mixes will scavenge for the nutrients and “fix” them back into the soil, making the nutrients available for cash crops to use.
Cover crops can also help reduce soil erosion by keeping a living root in the ground. The roots on the plants will help to hold the soil in place in the event of rain or wind. Some might think that cover crops would use all the moisture in the ground. But actually, cover crops help to improve the water holding capacity, which counteracts the water they use for growth. Also, because of the ground cover year-round, water doesn’t evaporate from the soil as easily and the roots in the soil increase the living matter which increases the soil’s capacity to absorb water deeper. Not only do cover crops do great things for the soil but they also provide food for cattle even after the grass has gone dormant.
If you are interested in cover crops or grass seed, the district has no-till drills for rent and offers the option of ordering your seed! Stop in for more details.
We are still accepting tree plantings for the 2020 spring. We can continue to order trees, but availability becomes more limited as planting time nears. Those with scheduled plantings keep in mind proper ground preparation. To ensure better survival rates, the ground should be tilled to a powdery-like texture, similar to a garden. This will help the roots of the seedlings be surrounded fully with soil and packed tight. If you have questions about this, please don’t hesitate to call and just ask.
Also, as a reminder, handplants can be ordered for a price of $2/tree. New to this year, a 20% discount will apply to bundle-quantity handplant orders of same-species trees. Order forms are available on our website or in the office.
Dates to remember:
February 12 – SCD Board Meeting, 1 pm, Board Room, USDA Service Center
February 17 – Office Closed – Presidents Day
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For more information contact the James River Soil Conservation District and Ellendale NRCS office at 349-3653 ext. 3, or stop by our field office located in Ellendale at 51 N 1st Street. Also, remember to visit our websites for more information – and The NRCS is an equal opportunity provider and employer.