July 22nd Soil Health Tour

More and more farmers and ranchers are taking action to improve the health of their soil. Producers who use soil health building systems that include practices such as no-till, cover crops, and diverse species rotations have been reporting greater productivity, profitability, and resiliency to weather extremes. Healthy soil also helps protect our soil and water resources, and can lower input costs, which can lead to a healthier bottom line for your business.

If you would like to learn more about what some producers in the area have been doing to improve their soil health, make plans to join the Soil Conservation Districts, NDSU Extension Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Ag Improvement Associations in Williams and Divide counties for a soil health tour on Thursday, July 22.

The tour will start at the Williams County Soil Conservation District Building located on the grounds of the Williston Research Extension Center at 1:30 pm with a review of a cover crop and annual forage trial being conducted by the Soil Conservation District.

From there the tour will head north, ending up in the Noonan area, with stops at several farm operations along the way to hear about actions they are taking or planning to improve their soil health. The tour will conclude with a supper at Wildrose around 6:30 pm.

As most people will probably just want to head home following the supper in Wildrose rather than riding back to Williston to retrieve their vehicle, we are just planning to caravan to the various tour stops so carpooling will be encouraged.

Several farm operations will be featured on the tour. One will be Andrew Sylte near the 13 mile corner. Andrew is in the beginning phases of a sustainability plan that will use full season cover crops and livestock integration working with a neighbor along with fall seeded cover crops to add crop diversity and improve soil health.

Another will be the Wheeler Ranch north of Ray where Tom and Blake are using cover crops and regenerative ag practices to expand their livestock operation.

From there we’ll move up into Divide County to see how several producers including Harlan and Phil Johnson, the Jacobs Ranch and Greg Bush are using cover crops and intercropping to increase diversity and build soil health.

The long-term goal for many of these producers is to rebuild the soil closer to what it was under prairie conditions. Prairies and prairie soils flourished with a diversity of plants that grew from early spring to late fall. Unfortunately, farming has taken its toll on our soil with most agricultural land having at best only about half the organic matter and topsoil compared to what it had before it was first cultivated.

If you would like to join the tour at some point outside of the beginning stop at the Williston Research Extension Center, please contact Keith Brown, soil health and cropping systems specialist with the Williams County SCD at 701-648-9841 and he can give you an approximate time and general location for the various tour stops. 

Those planning to attend are asked to pre-register for the tour by July 19 so we have a fairly accurate count for the supper at Wildrose. To pre-register you can contact Kelly Leo, NDSU Extension agent in Williams County at 701-577-4595 or e-mail Kelly.leo@ndsu.edu;  Travis Binde, NDSU Extension agent in Divide County at 701-965-6501 or e-mail travis.binde@ndsu.edu; or Keith Brown at the Williams County SCD at 701-648-9841 or e-mail williams.scd.soilhealth@gmail.com

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