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Extension Activities

Past Activities

Soil Health Bus Tour

NDSU Soil Health Bus Tour on July 25-26

On farm replicated trails

On-farm trials were conducted with the new interseeder in Rutland and Gardner, ND in 2017. All nutrient cycling studies in both corn and soybean were done in the on-farm replicated trials (results in Objective 1d).

In Morris, MN 5 acres were planted with winter camelina in the fall of 2016. In May 2017, soybean was relayed planted into standing camelina and camelina seed was harvested at the end of June. Strips of cover crops (winter camelina, winter rye, and no cover crop) were planted during the R7 and R5 stage in soybean and corn respectively at the Chad Roloffson’s farm in Barrett, MN on September 17, 2017. The cover crops were planted using a modified High-Boy Avenger air seeder. One set of cover crop strips was planted with the seeds being placed at the soil surface, while the other set of strips was planted with the seeds being blown into the air above the crop to simulate airplane seeding. Additionally, a no-till drill was used to plant the cover crops via direct seeding into spring wheat residue. Cover crop establishment was visually assessed in October. The cover crops established well in standing corn, however cover crop establishment failed in soybean due to herbicide residual activity.

The results of alfalfa-corn intercropping in 2016 and 2017 showed a reduction in maize grain yield, thus on-farm establishment of this system needs to be studied further. On-farm replicated trials of alfalfa-corn intercropping will be considered for 2018 season.

Extension activities:

On February 1, Dr. Wick and cooperating farmers conducted a farmer mentoring workshop for 20 North Dakota State College of Science students.  These students are generally young farmers from the region who are enrolled in a two year agricultural program and have a specific interest in using cover crops on their farms.  The Soil and Soil Water Workshop, 2018 at the Fargodome included a presentation to 225 crop consultants, farmers, and ag-industry representatives, the Corn and Soybean Expo in Fargo February 13 included a cover crop presentation and update by Dr. Wick to over 500 farmers with considerable interaction. Dr. Wick and her colleague Jodi Dejong-Hughes from University of Minnesota also addressed 150 crop consultants at the Advanced Crop Advisors Workshop, February 14, 2018.  On February 15, Dr. Wick presented to 75 MinnDak Sugar Beet Coop growers about including cover crops in the corn, soybean and wheat phases of their rotation.  The outreached as extended beyond the borders of North Dakota, with Chris Augustine, Soil Health Area Specialist from Minot, using Dr. Wick’s information in a presentation to 200 farmers at a Soil Health day in Mitchell, SD February 15, 2018.

The economic framework that incorporates environmental impacts was delivered as part of the Farm Business Management in-service in November, 2017, as part of three face-to-face local trainings in January and February 2018, and developed into an input management packaged program for county agents to deliver in February 2018.



Evaluation of extension impacts

Kandel, Wick


The evaluation of the first two years of the project in conjunction with a NC-SARE Professional Development Program (2015-2017) included the surveys of attendees to 22 field days and winter workshops with more than 500 participants.  


Workshops and professional training

During the project, we held three separate Train the Trainer workshops for cover crops; two in Fargo, ND, and one in Langdon, ND. We had 19 agents participating of the workshops. These agents accounted for about one-third of the workshop participants. Other university research and extension personnel accounted for nearly another third, and the rest included industry representatives, crop consultants, and various state and federal agencies. Attendees who completed cover crop “tests” before and after training averaged a 16% gain in scores from 64% pre-workshop to 80% post workshop in 2016. Tests scores from the 2017 workshop are incomplete, though the scores that we do have average 81% in the post test.

In addition to cover crop identification, topics covered by the experts included: cover crops grazing, soil health improvement, soil salinity control with cover crops, soybean cyst nematode reduction with cover crops, cover crops N and P uptake, nutrient cycling, soil erosion reduction, importance of mycorrhizae, and residual herbicides injury to cover crops and how to avoid it.

Train the Trainer impacts – the domino effect
The point of train the trainer events is that those attending the training will then take what they’ve learned to train others. We were very successful in this area, according to survey respondents, 81% of whom rated the workshops very or extremely useful. Key findings from the survey include:

  • 97% of respondents used what they learned to create cover crop activities in their part of the state
  • 91% shared what they learned with their colleagues
  • 89% shared what they learned with farmers


Farmer impacts and outcomes – changes in attitudes and behavior
This project is having a great impact in advancing the knowledge and adoption of cover crops in corn-soybean systems in the northern Great Plains. The graph below demonstrates the impact among survey respondents in terms of changes in their practices and potential future changes (attitudes), as a direct result of having attended one or more cover crop events between 2015 and 2017. The survey listed key practices that we covered during field days and winter workshops and asked respondents which ones they have implemented as a result of attending the events. The darker bars on the left side denote the percentage of respondents who have adopted the practices, and the lighter bars on the right are those who are considering adopting the practices. The chart lists the practices in order of highest impact to the sum of combined and potential changes. Other categories of responses not shown include “I am not considering this” or “I was already doing this prior to 2015.”

The greatest change in behavior among respondents was establishing a cover crop after harvest of a cash crop (50%) and using cover crops for soil erosion control (51%). The greatest potential for adoption of new practices include establishing a cover crop in a standing cash crop (51%) and interseeding at the time of side-dressing in corn (50%). Fifty percent or more of the respondents have either adopted or are considering adopting all but two of the practices listed – growing cover crops for seed production (39%), and interseeding in tall corn or soybean with Hegie type equipment (34%).


Field day activities in North Dakota in 2017

Two field days (15 August, Rutland, ND and 26 September Fargo, ND) were subjected to short surveys right after the event.  In summary, based on surveys conducted after the field day in Rutland, 73% of the respondents indicated that learned something useful. Additionally, 57% of the growers indicated that they would probably try interseeding a cover crop into corn and 79% in soybeans and 27% expressed interest in intercropping alfalfa in corn. Based on a survey of participants of the Fargo field day, 78% indicated that they learned something useful and 37% and 82% indicated that they would likely try intercropping cover crops into corn and soybean, respectively.

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