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Dust Storms throughout the State over the Weekend (06/01/17)

Although there are more farmers using cover crops, no-till and no-till systems around the state than in the recent past, the number of ‘clean-tilled’ fields is still large.

Dust Storms throughout the State over the Weekend

Although there are more farmers using cover crops, no-till and no-till systems around the state than in the recent past, the number of ‘clean-tilled’ fields is still large. The image in this article is from Steele County and shows soil blowing from planted fields. Soil from the state around 1900 had organic matter content over 6%. Today, the remnant of the originally rich topsoil contains around 3%. Most of what we call topsoil today is a mixture of the remains of the original higher organic matter topsoil mixed through tillage with some subsurface horizon. Loss of soil in millions of acres can be measured in feet over the past 120 years. Farmers and landowners lose topsoil anytime that the surface soil is dry, the surface soil is not covered by residue, cover crop or when the crop is large enough to protect the soil from blowing. Early in the season, clean-tilled fields have none of these wind-erosion impeding properties. Soil is leaving the field along with fertilizer that was applied and sometimes the pre-emergence herbicide application. Most lost soil, as can be seen in the image, is going high into the air, and only a small amount lands in a roadside ditch.

There will be opportunities this summer to attend field days where improved conservation measures are presented. Visit Dr. Wick’s Soil Health Webpage for information regarding coming events and the opportunity to join a soil health support group in your area for discussion with like-minded farmers and landowners who truly want to be ‘stewards’ of the soil.

For more on the sad wind-erosion history of the state and region and recommendations for soil improvement, see the video “The History of Soil Erosion in North Dakota”.

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Dave Franzen

NDSU Extension Soil Specialist

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