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a wordmark for the 2020 Soil Health Awareness Day

South Dakota Declares February 21 Soil Health Awareness Day

February 20, 2020

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has declared February 21, 2020 Soil Health Awareness Day. Agriculture contributes over 132,000 jobs and 32.5 billion dollars in total output to South Dakota’s economy.

A group of cattle grazing on crop residue.

Farm Practices That Improve Soil Health: Integrated Crop-Livestock Systems

An integrated crop-livestock system can provide an alternative management strategy that benefits producer’s income, soil health, and the environment—all while increasing production.

A field with patches of soil exhibiting poor water infiltration.

Farm Practices That Improve Soil Health: Cover Crops and Crop Residues

Planting cover crops and returning crop residues (stover) to the soil both adds nutrients and improves overall soil quality. These practices are common with producers across South Dakota and have been recently studied by researchers to identify how they impact the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

A patch of switchgrass growing at the edge of a field.

Farm Practices That Improve Soil Health: Planting Switchgrass on Marginal Lands

Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) is a tall, native, prairie grass that is often seeded on marginal lands in South Dakota. It has gained growing popularity over the past decade not only as a source of biofuel and feed, but also as a method to improve soil properties.

A green tractor planting seeds in a no-till field. Courtesy: United Soybean Board [CC BY 2.0] via Flickr

Farm Practices That Improve Soil Health: Crop Rotations and No-Till

Implementing diverse crop rotations and no-till practices are common suggestions to reduce erosion, control pests, and improve yields. These practices can also improve soil health through an increase in soil carbon levels.

a variety of bright colored fruits and vegetables arranged on a table

A Guide to Drying Foods

Fact sheet about drying foods

two black beetles rolling a ball of dung

An identification guide to common Dung Beetles of South Dakota

A guide of common dung beetles of South Dakota.

Left: Soil from long-term no-till field, exhibiting good soil aggregation through clumping and smaller pieces of soil. Right: Soil from conventionally managed field that included tillage and crop residue removal. Notice the soil is lighter brown, indicating lower organic matter, and the pieces of soil are in larger chunks with no visible indication of clumping or structure.

Organic Agronomy Starting to Impact

For decades scientists have known that a handful of soil contained more micro-biological organisms than the number of humans on earth. Science is just beginning to discover these organisms and learn about their functions and contribution to their soil ecosystem.

A field of no-till soybeans and corn.

Crop Residue, Cover Crops Impact on Soil Health Parameters

Interest in no-till and cover crops has been on the rise among South Dakota crop producers. In 2019, half of South Dakota crop ground was under no-till management and about 900,000 acres were planted to cover crops.

A map of South Dakota illustrating soil temperatures on April 21, 2020. Temperatures throughout the state range from 41 to 56 degrees Fahrenheit. For more information, visit: https://climate.sdstate.edu/archive/maps/

Soil Temperature for Planting Spring Crops

Soil temperature is an important consideration for deciding when to begin planting spring crops. If producers in South Dakota would like a quick reference for soil temperatures in their area, the SD Mesonet network measures soil temperature at several weather stations throughout the state.