Conservation Corner

By Tokina McHarry, Education Coordinator, James River Soil Conservation District

Hello summer! This time of year, we sometimes receive questions about water quality testing for livestock water sources. Water is an important, but often overlooked, nutrient. Livestock water requirements are affected by many factors, including size, productivity, diet and environmental conditions. Good water quality and cleanliness can increase water intake and improve livestock production.


Unfortunately, blue-green algae blooms have already been detected in the western part of North Dakota. This alga can produce toxins in the water called cyanotoxins. People and animals that swallow water containing cyanotoxins can become sick or even die.

Blue-green algae often occurs in stagnant ponds or dugouts with elevated nutrient levels, forming large colonies that appear as scum on or just below the water surface. The formation of toxic blooms is unpredictable.

Live cyanobacteria is green and turns blue after it dies and dries on the surface or shoreline. The presence of bacteria often may be determined by a bluish tinge to the water. Concentrations of bacteria often are bluish green but may vary from dark green to brownish green, depending on the total bacterial population.

There are several labs that NDSU recommends for water quality testing. The NDSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory will perform a general water screening and cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) screening. Their website is Minnesota Valley Testing Laboratories, Inc. also does general water screenings. Their website is And Astro Chem Lab Inc. out of Williston will also perform general water screenings,

We also get many questions about newly planted trees. Of course, we want the best survivability as possible. Here are a few items to keep in mind –

  • Watering - In the absence of timely rains, newly planted seedlings should receive 5 gallons of water per week during the growing season. For the following two years, trees should receive 10 gallons of water every other week. Water can be applied by bucket, hose, or drip irrigation systems. It is important that water be applied slowly enough to fully soak in and not run off. Five-gallon buckets with a 1/8” hole in the side can be placed by the tree and used to speed up watering. They can be filled quickly while allowing water to soak into the soil slowly. Place 1-2 bricks in each bucket to prevent blowing away when empty. Avoid shallow, frequent watering. Without weed control, shallow watering only waters the weeds (grass).

  • Fertilizing - Generally, fertilizing windbreaks is not recommended. The possible improvement in tree growth is usually not worth the cost or effort required. Most trees the District sells are compatible to a vary of North Dakota soil conditions and are quite hardy. Foliage color is indicator of the need for fertilization. Never use a fertilizer which includes any kind of herbicide around a tree. These fertilizers may be beneficial to turf but can damage trees.

  • Weed Management - All weeds must be controlled within, and for a short distance beyond, the tree root zone on newly planted stock and should be controlled for the life of the tree or shrub planting for maximum benefits. To help with this, and to help manage available water, consider some form of mulching. The Soil Conservation District offers fabric application for new plantings. We also sell fabric on a stand-alone basis if producers want to install their own. Organic mulch, like large wood chips, can also be applied.


Dates to Remember:

  • July 3 – Office Closed

  • SCD Board Meeting – July 8, watch Facebook for details


For more information contact the James River Soil Conservation District and Ellendale NRCS office at 349-3653, ext. 3. Also, remember to visit the James River Soil Conservation District Facebook page and our websites for more information – and The NRCS is an equal opportunity employer, provider and lender.

Contact us:

Phone: 701-349-3653, ext. 3


Address: PO Box 190, 51 N. 1st Street, Ellendale, ND 58436


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