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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.

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 close up view of the stem of palmer amaranth which is hairless.

Identification and Management of Palmer Amaranth in South Dakota

Guide for the identification and management of Palmer Amaranth in South Dakota

A herd of cattle gather around a stock pond on a vast, lush grassland. Courtesy: USDA [CC BY 2.0]

Weed Control: Pasture and Range

There are 24 million acres of native and tame pasture and range as well as 1.4 million acres of grass hayland in South Dakota.

grass with field bindweed, a viny green weed with white flowers

Weed Control: Noxious Weeds

Noxious Weed Recommendations: Herbicides for pasture, range, and non-crop areas, including roadside and other right-of-way that may be harvested for hay or grazed, are given a priority.

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.

Two side-by-side fields. The left field is planted with perennial grass. The right field is bare with salty soil exposed.

Managing Weeds While Transforming Marginal Land Into Perennial Forages Production

There are currently millions acres across South Dakota impacted by saline and sodic conditions. Research has shown that salt-tolerant perennial grasses are a possible way to bring land back into production.

A man inspecting a field with salty soil.

Perennial Solutions for Alkali Areas

Reclaiming marginal lands, especially those considered saline or sodic can be very challenging and may take many years to accomplish. The key to turning around salt or alkali areas in your fields, begins with getting a living root established in the affected area.