Partner Agency Updates

FSA Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP)

The recent snow storms certainly brought some much needed moisture to the area but did catch many livestock producers at an inopportune time with calving and lambing underway.

If anyone did lose livestock during these storms, there is a program through FSA called the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) that may help. LIP is available for producers who have had livestock deaths in excess of normal mortality caused by eligible loss conditions such as adverse weather, disease, and attacks by animals reintroduced to the wild by the federal government. LIP payments are equal to 75 percent of the average fair market value of the livestock. LIP also provides assistance to eligible livestock owners that must sell livestock at a reduced price because of an injury from an eligible loss condition.

Contact your local FSA office to discuss the program if you have losses and want to find out if you would qualify. Make sure to document what animals you lost and have verifiable documents showing your numbers (sale barn/sale receipts, vet records, calving books, etc) and also take pictures of livestock lost.

Owners or contract growers who suffer livestock losses due to an eligible cause of loss must submit a notice of loss and an application for payment to the local FSA office that serves the physical location county where the livestock losses occurred. All of the owner’s or contract grower’s interest in inventory of eligible livestock in that county for the calendar year must be accounted for and summarized when determining eligibility. An owner or contract grower must file a notice of loss within 30 calendar days of when the loss of livestock is first apparent as well as file an application for payment within 60 calendar days after the end of the calendar year in which the eligible loss condition occurred.

ND Dept. of Agriculture’s Soil Health Cover Crop Program

Farmers or ranchers who are planning to plant cover crops at some point during the upcoming growing season may want to take a look at the Soil Health Cover Crop Program available through the ND Department of Agriculture. 

The Soil Health Cover Crop Grant Program was funded by the 67th Legislative Assembly. As a conservation program, the program’s primary goal is to protect and enhance soil health statewide. In particular, the program is targeting cropland areas impacted with alkaline soils (saline areas).

The cost share to eligible producers under this program is based on a lottery system. To be eligible, producers must plant the cover crop by August 31 and then complete an online application by October 1. Successful applicants can receive a cost share payment up to $15 an acre with a 50-acre cap per applicant per year.

Because of the lottery based approach to this program, it would be difficult to plant cover crops banking on cost share but if you are already planning to seed cover crops regardless of any cost share, it might be worth throwing your name in the hat. For further details on the program, please call Jason Wirtz at the North Dakota Department of Agriculture at 701-220-1628 or email at

ND farm sees ‘tremendous’ gains with NRCS irrigation aid, advice

Photo credit: NRCS
Article by : Lon Tonneson

Working with the Natural Resources Conservation Service to update their irrigation “improved our farm tremendously,” says Vickie Schilling, of Cartwright, N.D.

The family  increased their crop yields, cut the amount of water used, reduced labor costs and made it easier to run their farm and an oil field business at the same time.

Vickie farms with her husband, Rob, and sons, Tyler and Trent. The family grows sugar beets, corn and alfalfa. They also have an oil field welding business.

The land that the Schillings farm in North Dakota has been flood irrigated for decades. It lies along the Yellowstone River southeast of Cartwright near the North Dakota-Montana border

In the fall of 2020, they converted three fields to pivot irrigation. In the spring of 2022, they installed a linear irrigator in a fourth field. A linear machine travels back and forth across a field rather than around a central point like a pivot.

The flood irrigation that was installed in the 1960s still worked, but required a lot of hand labor to operate, Vickie says. The siphon tubes that transfer water from the irrigation canal to the field furrows had be moved manually.
“Rob and I are getting older,” Vickie says, and it was getting harder to do the physical work. Trent and Tyler have always helped, but they are plenty busy away from the farm now with the oil field welding business.

Also, with flood irrigation it was difficult to apply the right amount of water. That’s especially important when trying to germinate sugar beet seeds and water the seedlings. It was easy to wash the seeds out of the row or drown the seedlings with too much water.

Flood irrigation generally uses more water during a growing season than sprinkler irrigation, too. To flood a field, enough water must be applied between the rows so that it runs from one end of the field to the other. Sprinklers apply water directly on top of the row.

“Drought is always something we are concerned about. It affects how much water is in the river,” Tyler says. “We are always trying to conserve water. We don’t want to waste anything.”

The Schillings can monitor their sprinklers and turn them off and on remotely from their computers or cell phones.
Their new irrigation system includes automated soil moisture sensors. The solar powered sensors continuously measure the moisture in the soil from the surface to as much as 10 feet deep. The sensors transmit the readings to a cloud-based platform where the Schillings can access it remotely using an app on their smart phones and computer. A software program factors in the soil type, current weather conditions, the weather forecast and the crop’s growth stage and expected water use to produce recommendations on where to turn on and off the sprinklers and how much water to apply.

Water flow sensors on the sprinklers track water use. Global Positioning System technology on the machines allow the Schillings to track where the irrigators are in the fields. Sensors monitor the irrigators for signs of trouble and send the Schillings text alerts when something goes wrong.

The cloud-based platform gives the Schillings the flexibility to interact and control their irrigation wherever they are 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

The Schillings received an Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) grant from NRCS to help cover some of the costs of converting their systems. NRCS provided technical assistance as well.

“This new system will increase their irrigation water use efficiency by saving more water from evaporation, deep percolation and runoff while also minimizing erosion,” says Nicole Darrington, NRCS district conservationist, Watford City, N.D. “It will also help minimize the nutrients and pesticides transported from surface water. Also, by getting a sprinkler cost-shared, the irrigation water management is where we get to work very closely with the producer in teaching them about timing, distribution and regulating their irrigation water,”

The irrigation project was the first time the Schillings worked with the North Dakota NRCS.

“We had a very good experience,” Vickie says. “Nicole helped me fill out an EQIP application for cost-sharing and wrote a conservation plan for us. It came to together quickly and easily. She was wonderful to work with.”

Media contact:
Lon Tonneson
for the Natural Resources Conservation Service – North Dakota

One of the Schillings’ new pivots stands ready to irrigate sugar beets.. 
Photo credit: Nicole Darrington, NRCS

Supplemental Forage Production Likely Needed for 2022

Moisture conditions have improved across much of the state when compared to this time a year ago. Based on the US Drought Monitor for North Dakota, last year at the beginning of March, the entire state was abnormally dry with over 68 percent of the state considered to be in severe drought. This year, only around 52 percent of the state is classified as being abnormally dry and the area considered to be in severe drought has dropped to around 22 percent. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that the drought has intensified to the extreme category for just over 5 percent of the state when compared to last year and the area encompassed by extreme drought conditions is basically northwest North Dakota covering Williams, Divide and a portion of McKenzie counties.

Based on that along with a below average seasonal precipitation outlook by the National Climate Prediction Center for this area during the June-July-August time period, it would appear likely that the drought is going to persist in this area into the 2022 growing season. Not news that anyone wants to hear but it has likely been on the minds of many during the course of this winter with the limited snow cover.

That doesn’t mean we should give up hope for the 2022 growing season. Annual crops still have a chance of reasonable production if we get timely rains during the growing season or if weather patterns happen to change.

Don’t be surprised if our rainfall pattern mimics last year with whatever amount of growing season precipitation that we do receive occurring in just a few major rain events as the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska has documented that rainfall events across the Great Plains are occurring less frequently but with more intensity when they do occur.

If this trend continues, soil resilience could become an even more important factor in yield stability under climate extremes. Soil health practices that increase carbon in the soil improve soil resilience by increasing soil microbial activity which can lead to enhanced soil structural stability. The structural stability comes from better soil aggregation and aggregate stability which improves the soil’s ability to infiltrate and store moisture due to better porosity in the soil.

While annual crops still have a chance for respectable production with timely rain, livestock producers will be facing challenges again in 2022. It is already known that we are more likely than not to see a delay in grazing readiness this spring and at least a 25 percent reduction in forage production from perennial grasses due to the dry conditions that occurred last fall. Throw in lingering effects from the dry conditions that actually started in late summer of 2020 and some possible overuse or overgrazing trying to get livestock through last summer and there could be significant reductions in forage production for 2022.

As such, livestock producers may want to be thinking about annual forages or cover crops that could be used for supplement hay or grazing.

One of the first annual forage options that comes to mind is generally small grains such as barley, oats or triticale, which can be planted from late April to early June. Forage barley is generally considered to be more drought tolerant than oats and more cost effective than triticale. Plus, forage barley generally doesn’t show higher nitrate levels as quickly with stress than forage oats although any of these crops can certainly accumulate nitrates under extended stress conditions.

Another popular option for annual forages is the warm-season grasses such as millet and sorghum-sudan, which can be planted from late May into June. Siberian millet is generally considered the most drought tolerant of the warm-season grasses followed by German millet. The sorghum-sudan hybrids are not as drought tolerant as the millets. Plus, they can be more difficult to cure for hay than the millets.

While any of the above could be grazed as well as being put up for hay, a cover crop mixture may be the best option if you are looking for something strictly to graze. Planting a mixture of cool- and warm-season grasses, broadleaf crops and legume species will create diversity, help minimize risk due to weather conditions and extend the grazing period due to different growth stages.

The diversity created by the cover crop mix can help minimize risk due to weather as the different species included in the mix have different rooting structures and different times of peak moisture and nutrient uptake as compared to single species which are all competing for the same resources at the same time. Because of this, multi-species often out-produce single species. Even if they don’t out yield single species, they still offer increased soil health benefits compared to single species.

A number of crops could be included in cover crop mixes for grazing. The base for these mixes could be one of the forage barley or oat varieties along with one of the millets.

It is often desirable to include a legume in cover crop mixes. Field peas would be an option for earlier seeding. Field pea may not be the best in terms of drought tolerance but they tend to be one of the more cost effective legumes. For later plantings that include warm-season grass, cowpeas or possibly mung beans may be better options. Both are warm-season legumes that are rated as having better drought tolerance than field peas with good to excellent biomass production potential and forage quality.

Most cover crop mixes also include one or more of the Brassica species. Brassica species aren’t necessarily considered drought tolerant but are very desirable in a cover crop mix due to their remarkable forage quality, even after a killing frost. Plus, if we would start to get some moisture later in the season, they may be able to come on to provide later season grazing.

Brassicas noted to have some drought tolerance while still producing high quality forage include collards and forage rapeseed. Others that are maybe not quite as drought tolerant but still providing high quality forage include forage radish and turnips.

If haying may be a consideration, try to keep inclusion rate for the Brassicas on the lower side as the Brassicas tend to be high in moisture and can be difficult to cure for baled forage.

The last group of plants generally included in a cover crop mix would be the broadleaves. One option for a broadleaf would be to include a small amount of sunflower in the mix as sunflower is a deep-rooted crop that tends to be fairly drought tolerant and produces good quality forage that is utilized by cattle. Another option would be one of the spineless safflower varieties designed for grazing. Like sunflowers, they are deep rooted and fairly drought tolerant.

If you would like some help or suggestions on annual forages or cover crops for supplemental haying or grazing in 2022, give us a call at 701-774-2319. Another good source of information is your local NDSU Extension Service office. The NDSU Extension Service also has a good publication available on the subject at Annual Cover Crop Options for Grazing and Haying in the Northern Plains | NDSU Agriculture and Extension .

Intercropping Workshop Videos

If you were unable to attend the January 26th workshop at the Williston Research Extension Center on “Introduction to Intercropping” or if you did attend, but would like to review any of the presentations, the workshop was recorded. Recordings of the entire workshop can be found here:  

If you haven’t already filled out their surveys, Audrey Kalil, plant pathologist at the WREC and one of the organizers of the workshop asks that you please do so.  Information from these surveys is important to them to be able to demonstrate the value of this programming and obtain funding for future research and extension efforts focused on intercropping.

Before watching the first video of the four video series, please fill out their pre-workshop survey using the link below. This will help them collect baseline data about current understanding and attitudes towards intercropping. It should only take 2-3 minutes.

NDSU Intercropping Pre-workshop Survey

After watching the last video, please fill out the post workshop survey using the link below.  This will help them determine if any understanding or attitude change occurred because of the workshop. The survey is identical to the one above, so please make sure to use the correct link.

NDSU Intercropping Post-workshop Survey

Should you have any question, please contact Audrey at the WREC at 701-774-4315.

Soil Health Resources and Hard Spring Wheat Show

Soil Health Resources – Agricultural producers who were able to participate in the Soil Health Workshop conducted on January 20th at the Williston Research Extension Center by the Williams County Soil Conservation District and NDSU Extension had an opportunity to hear Keith Berns with Green Cover Seed talk about carbon and the importance of carbon in building healthy soil.

Keith Berns, a former teacher, is a no-till farmer and co-owner of Green Cover Seed along with his brother. Green Cover Seed is headquartered in Bladen, NE, with key partners across the High Plains and Midwest. They specialize in developing and delivering cover crop seed but are also committed to educating people about soil health.

One of the resources Green Cover Seed provides as part of their commitment to educating farmers, ranchers, and others about soil health is their annual Soil Health Resource Guide. The 8th issue of this guide was recently released and is available to read, download, or order copies at no cost on their website,

A unique feature of their resource guide is that every year they invite some of the best minds in the soil health arena and regenerative agriculture movement to share their expertise and insight for the benefit of all. A few names you may recognize from this year’s guide include Ray Archuleta, North Dakota’s Jay Fuhrer, David Montgomery, Christine Jones, and Nicole Masters, just to mention a few.

Whether you want to learn more about soil health or are looking to reinforce your understanding of soil health, if you can find the time to read the articles in this guide, I think you will begin to better understand and appreciate the importance and interconnectedness of the basic principles of soil health. These basic principles are minimal soil disturbance, keeping the soil covered, keeping a living root in the soil as much as possible, maximizing diversity, and livestock integration when possible.

It is also important to know your context. Basically knowing your context is your individual situation. This could be climate, geography, resources, skills, family dynamics, goals, and any other factors that may influence you and your operation.

Carbon is one of the driving forces behind improving soil health. Carbon is the primary component of organic matter. Organic matter is vital to healthy soils and to build organic matter we need to find ways to put more carbon into the soil along with increasing microbial biomass and diversity.  A higher level of soil organic matter improves both the availability of nutrients and soil moisture for crops.

As research shows the less you till, the more carbon you keep in the soil to maintain organic matter, a good starting point to improve soil health is to minimize soil disturbance using practices such as direct seeding or no-till systems. Each time soil is tilled, it is exposed to oxygen which stimulates microbial action to decompose organic matter at an accelerated rate, releasing carbon into the atmosphere. Over time, tillage alone leads to a loss of soil carbon and depletion of organic matter.

Minimal soil disturbance is also less disruptive to soil aggregates, which are one of the key components to soil structure and health as good soil aggregation is important for moisture infiltration into the soil and in providing habitat for the soil microbes.

At the same time, practices that minimize soil disturbance tend to leave more cover on the soil surface to protect against soil erosion, reduce moisture loss due to evaporation, and help moderate soil temperatures to keep them in a more favorable range for both plant development and soil microbial activity.

An important step in getting more carbon into the soil to build organic matter is to keep a living root in the soil for as much of the growing season as possible. Research has found that living roots are the most important means of adding “new” carbon to the soil. Plants take carbon dioxide from the air and water from the soil, which they transform into simple sugars through the process of photosynthesis. Plants transform these simple sugars to a number of carbon compounds including some which they leak from their roots.

These exudates from the roots are very energy-rich carbon sources that help feed the microbes in the soil. In exchange for the “liquid carbon”, the microbes in the vicinity of the plant roots help acquire nutrients and minerals for the plant. Some of the carbon that is leaked to the microbes is turned into stabilized forms of carbon called humates and glues such as glomalin, which bind soil particles together to form aggregates and enhance soil structure.

This is an over simplification of the process of regenerating soils, but should give you some insight into the interconnectedness of the soil health principles in building soil health. In essence, soil organisms build their own shelter, which are soil aggregates. Soil aggregation improves soil structure by increasing pore space which increases the soil’s ability to infiltrate and store moisture. This is beneficial to both microbes and plants. Plants spur microbial activity by capturing carbon from the atmosphere and converting them to sugars some of which they purposely exude from their roots to feed the microbes, who in term help provide the plants with nutrients, minerals, and even to some degree moisture from the soil.  

Farmers who use soil health building systems that include no-till, cover crops, and diverse species rotations have been reporting greater productivity, profitability and resiliency to weather extremes.  Not only can healthy soil help protect your farm from drought, improve production, and protect soil and water resources, it can also lower input costs – and that can lead to a healthier bottom line for your business.

69th National Hard Spring Wheat Show – Don’t forget the 2022 National Hard Spring Wheat Show which will be held this Wednesday, February 9th at the Williston Area Recreation Center.

All are invited to attend the Ag Appreciation Breakfast starting at 7:30 am. The main program begins at 9am and will feature presentations on many new and current topics relating to agriculture ranging from weather to grain markets.

From a soil health standpoint, you won’t want to miss the 3:30 pm presentation by Upendra Sainju, research scientist at the Sidney USDA Northern Plain Agriculture Research Laboratory, speaking on “Soil Carbon Storage in Wheat-Based Cropping Systems”. Dr. Saninju is renowned in developing soil and crop management practices that sequester carbon and nitrogen in the soil, reducing nitrogen fertilization needs, mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, and sustaining crop yields in dryland and irrigated cropping systems.

A social hour and supper will close out the day leading up to the Wheat Show’s featured speaker, Jolene Brown. She is well known for her wit and humor while addressing serious issues involved with agricultural operations.

More information on the Wheat Show and the complete program can be found at

Ecosystem Services and Upcoming Soil Health Workshop

One of the questions producers are starting to ask is if there is money to be made with soil health, carbon sequestration, and other ecosystem services.

There is a complex relationship between humans and the environment. Humans influence the environment and the environment provides humans with benefits, such as clean air, clean water, a stable climate, productive soils, etc. The services provided to humans by the environment are commonly referred to as ecosystem services. Working lands agriculture provides numerous ecosystem services to humans and the environment

For those who would like to learn more about navigating the emerging carbon markets, NDSU Bioproducts and Bioenergy Economist David Ripplinger will be addressing the subject at the upcoming Soil Health workshop and Williams County Ag Improvement Association annual meeting on Thursday, Jan. 20 at the Williston Research Extension Center.

Even if emerging carbon markets don’t appear attractive, any time you increase soil carbon, you are also increasing soil health and you are still investing in long-term improvements that can eventually provide returns in the form of higher yields, reduced input costs and improved soil resilience.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service also recognizes that these emerging environmental markets could possibly be leveraged to help accomplish the agency’s mission of delivering conservation solutions so agricultural producers can protect natural resources and feed a growing world. While NRCS has been involved in environmental market activities since 2006, look for NRCS to offer expanded conservation program opportunities to support climate smart agriculture beginning in 2022.

NRCS’s environmental market activities are intended to support agricultural producers being compensated for providing society with the numerous ecosystem services that working land conservation practices provide. NRCS’s Working Lands Conservation Practices are entirely voluntary but are often complementary to environmental market objectives and could create a new revenue stream for farmers, ranchers, and landowners.

Those planning to participate in the Jan. 20th workshop are asked to pre-registration by Today.  To pre-register, please contact the Williams County Soil Conservation District at 701-774-2319 or the NDSU Extension Williams County office at 701-577-4595. Full details on the workshop which begins at 9:00 am can be found at

Introduction to Intercropping Workshop:  Using Plant Synergies to Improve Crop Production

Another upcoming event that should be of wide interest to producers in the area is an Introduction to Intercropping workshop that will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 26 at the Williston Research Extension Center beginning at 8:30 am.

The workshop will provide an opportunity to learn how farmers have been using intercropping to maximize crop quality and minimize disease risk on their farm. NDSU agronomists will present research data and farmers will share their experiences with this practice.

Lana Shaw, Research Manager at the South East Research Farm near Redvers, Saskatchewan (north of Mohall, ND) will share what she has learned about intercropping on the Canadian Prairies. This event is free and open to the public. The workshop is being offered as a hybrid event with opportunities to participate either in-person or online. If interested in participating in the workshop, please pre-register at the following link:

NRCS helps Burke County farmers go on the offense against soil salinity

Photo credit: NRCS
Article by : Lon Tonneson

The Natural Resources Conservation Service field office in Burke County, N.D., has had some good luck halting the spread of saline areas in cropland.

Burke County has about 425,000 acres of cropland. Nearly every quarter of ground has some sort of saline problem; sometimes it covers as much as 20% of a field, says Mark Crosby, NRCS district conservationist.
Salt that has been carried to the soil surface by rising water tables can significantly reduce grain yields and, in many cases, will kill everything but kochia and foxtail barley.

“Farmers lose money on those acres, which drags down the profit margins on the whole farm,” Crosby says.

NRCS has helped Burke County farmers enroll more than 5,000 acres in cost-sharing and incentive programs over the past four years to help them manage saline soils.

The land is either planted to less salt-sensitive grain crops or to a mix of perennial grasses, depending on the salt levels. As a result, four things are happening:

  1. The spread of saline areas has been halted or slowed.
  2. Unproductive saline areas have started producing good quality forage.
  3. Converted saline areas have become excellent habitat for sage grouse, pheasant and other wildlife.
  4. Overall farm profitability has risen as expensive crop inputs aren’t being wasted on soils that don’t produce profitable grain yields.

Successful recipe
The Burke County NRCS field office has developed a successful recipe for managing saline areas.

The first step is to figure out how to reduce the water flowing into the saline areas from surrounding hills and slopes, Crosby says. This might involve changing tillage systems and crop rotations.

No-tilling will reduce runoff by increasing the ability of the soil to absorb and hold water.

grass planting

Changing the rotation to crops that use more water helps, too. Sunflowers, alfalfa and cover crops are good options.

The next step is to determine how “hot” the saline area is by soil testing. Soil with an Electrical Conductivity (EC) of less than 2.0 dS/m can be planted to crops that are somewhat salt tolerant. Best candidates include barley and sunflower.

Soils with an EC of 2.0 dS/m probably won’t grow any grain or oilseed crops. In those areas, it’s best to first kill the weeds, especially foxtail, and seed perennial grasses. Many grasses can grow in saline areas. They will lower water the table, which will draw down salts.

For Burke County, Crosby recommends a mixture of Canadian wild rye, western wheatgrass, slender wheatgrass, alfalfa, sweet clover and AC Saltlander green wheatgrass. AC Saltlander is an advanced-generation hybrid cross  between quackgrass and bluebunch wheatgrass. It has been one of the best grasses to plant on salt affected soils, Crosby says.  Most of the grasses in the mix are bunchgrasses, which root deeper than sod forming grasses, utilizing more salt affected water.

Dormant seeding the grass in November or December – often just before the first snow — has worked best, Crosby says.

Whether seeding a salt tolerant crop or the perennial grass mix, it’s best to plant a buffer around the edges of the saline area, too, to help stop the spread of the salinity, Crosby says.

Marshall Chrest, a Bowbells, N,D., farmer, has worked with NRCS to manage salinity. He has converted 50-75% of the saline areas on cropland they own to grass.

“It has really made a difference,” he says.

They no longer put expensive seed, herbicide or fertilizer on saline areas only to lose money on those acres. Instead, they produce hay on saline areas for their cow herd.

“It’s good forage, too, not junk like we were getting when it was just weeds,” Chrest says. The Environmental Quality Incentive Program that he is enrolled in allows the grasses to be harvested when the nutrient quality is still good.

He also appreciates the additional wildlife he sees in saline areas planted to the perennial grass mixture.

“We have been on the defense against salinity for a long time,” he says. “It was beating us up pretty bad. It’s nice to have another tool in the toolbox now.”

For more information on managing salinity, see your local NRCS field office.

Salts rise to the soil surface in Burke County cropland. (Photo: NRCS)

Perennial grasses planted in a saline area between the soybean field on the left and the hay land on the right. (Photo: NRCS)


Media contact:
Lon Tonneson
for the Natural Resources Conservation Service – North Dakota

January 20th Soil Health Workshop and Williams County Ag Improvement Meeting

Farmers and ranchers in the MonDak area are invited to participate in a soil health workshop on Thursday, January 20. The workshop, which is being sponsored by the Williams County Soil Conservation District, Natural Resources Conservation Service, NDSU Extension Williams County, and the Williams County Ag Improvement Association, will begin at 9:00 am at the Williston Research Extension Center and will be a hybrid event featuring both in-person and online opportunities to participate.

Opening speaker for the workshop will be Frayne Olson, NDSU Crop Economist/Marketing Specialist. Frayne will provide a crop market update and outlook, a topic that should be of considerable interest as producers plan for the upcoming growing season.

The focus of the soil health portion of the program will be on increasing soil carbon as it is one of the primary components to improving soil health and resilience.

Keith Berns, a former teacher, who along with his brother are no-till farmers and co-owners of Green Cover Seed near Bladen, Nebraska, will lead off the discussion talking about “Carbonomics”. Berns came up with the term when he realized the distinct parallels between a healthy, robust economy and the types of biological activity taking place in a healthy, well-managed soil. Berns notes that a common thread weaving throughout a healthy soil economy is carbon.

Following the “Carbonomics” presentation, Hal Wieser, Soil Health Specialist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, will talk about management practices to increase soil carbon.

Lunch will be served at noon, compliments of the Williams County Ag Improvement Association, Williams County Soil Conservation District, and NDSU Extension Williams County.

After lunch, David Ripplinger, NDSU Bioproducts and Bioenergy Economist, will give an overview on the emerging carbon markets. Carbon credits are one component of an emerging market for agriculture collectively known as “ecosystem services markets”. As practices that build soil health tend to also be practices that capture carbon in the soil, there may be opportunities for producers to participate in this emerging market.

To round out the program, staff from the Williston Research Extension Center and North Dakota Crop Improvement & Seed Association will provide updates on crop variety performance and new varieties being released by NDSU.

Following the conclusion of the program, all Williams County producers are invited to stay for the annual meeting of the Williams County Ag Improvement Association. Working closely with NDSU Extension Williams County, the Ag Improvement Association plays a key role in the increase of new varieties released by NDSU within the county and helps to support many ag related programs in the county.

Those planning to participate in the workshop are asked to pre-register to help with the meal count for in-person participation and if you plan to participate online, so you can be emailed the link to join the workshop. To pre-register, please contact the Williams County Soil Conservation District at 701-774-2319 or the NDSU Extension Williams County office at 701-577-4595. Please pre-register by Tuesday, Jan. 18.

Northern solution: Interseeded cover crop produces extra forage

Photo credit and article by : Lon Tonneson

In far northern North Dakota, Jason Overby is growing extra forage for his cattle by interseeding cover crops with forage barley.

Overby, Mohall, N.D., mixes hairy vetch, clover, turnip and forage barley seed together and no-till plants them all at the same time in late May or early June. All the seed germinates together, but the forage barley grows the fastest. The vetch, clover and turnip seedlings are shaded by the barley plants and stay small throughout the spring and early summer. After the forage barley is cut and baled for hay in late July or early August, the cover crops are exposed to sunlight and begin growing. By September, there’s often enough forage for the stock cows to graze until December.

Overby estimates that in 2021, which was very dry in his area, the forage barley yielded approximately 2 tons per acre acre. The cover crops produced enough forage for the cows to graze through the fall. The seed mix cost about $15 per acre.

“I think it works pretty well,” he says.

Overby is always looking for additional forage because he is relatively new to the cattle business. A few years ago, a neighbor offered him some pasture to rent. He took on the pasture and bought stock cows because he wanted to diversify his income.

“Cattle are my winter job,” he says.

A cash grain grower, Overby doesn’t want to convert too much of his valuable cropland to hayland. It’s more economical for him to buy some hay and corn silage. He also bales wheat and makes hay from grass on marginal cropland areas. He has even baled kochia. With his bale grinder, he can make use of a wide variety of feedstuffs.

Overby has tried growing cover crops by planting the seed after harvesting forage barley. The practice is common in parts of South Dakota and Nebraska. But the growing season along the North Dakota-Canadian border is too short to consistently produce much forage, especially if the seed lies in dry soils for several weeks before it germinates. July and August are often Overby’s driest months of the growing season. The first frost can occur in mid-September.

Christopher Criese, Natural Resources Conservation Service district conservationist in Renville County, suggested Overby try interseeding. Criese had worked with farmers in nearby Burke County who interseeded.
“Interseeding gives cover crops a 3-4 week head start,” he says.

There’s also a soil health benefit. Interseeding increases the biological diversity in the field during the main growing season. It also keeps living roots in the soil longer during the year than a monoculture. Both can significantly boost soil micro-organisms populations, which help speed the increase in soil organic matter. In the future, Overby may try growing a full-season cover crop. It might produce as much or more forage than forage barley with an interseeded cover crop. Plus, the cows could graze the full season cover crop. There wouldn’t be any baling expense.

More forage and lower costs would be a win-win, Overby says.

NRCS has several cover crop cost sharing and incentive programs. For more information, see your local NRCS office.

Media contact:
Lon Tonneson
for the Natural Resources Conservation Service – North Dakota