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Topsoil Removal Project Still Underway (05/05/16)

This spring has seen several days of major topsoil loss in the Red River Valley of North Dakota and other areas of the state where conventional tillage and dry top soil conditions were present.

Topsoil Removal Project Still Underway

This spring has seen several days of major topsoil loss in the Red River Valley of North Dakota and other areas of the state where conventional tillage and dry top soil conditions were present. Although there is a growing awareness of the problem with topsoil loss, not all farmers and landowners understand how close many fields are to losing all of their most productive soil. Sampling a few miles west of Gardner, ND this spring, there was only 10 inches of dark topsoil over subsoil that used to be over 2 feet thick. On the highway from Grafton to I-29, a decade ago the topsoil was black. Now it is brown. Sampling today in a couple fields north and south of Casselton, 10 inches of topsoil is all that is left.

On the positive side, there are more cover crops that were established last fall than I have seen, thanks mostly to Dr. Wick’s Soil Health Team’s program, and farmers are starting to ask questions about no-till/strip till systems. There is still much to do.

One possible way to stem soil loss is to renovate and reestablish tree rows. Equipment is larger today than in the 50’s and 60’s when many of the current tree belts were established, but the ND Forest Service and local Soil Conservation Districts can help plan and execute useful tree row establishment and renovation. See the following link for learning about the ND Windbreak Renovation Program- https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/ndfs/programs-and-services/windbreak-renovation

There is also conversation at NDSU regarding how to better stop the loss of topsoil from Experiment Station farms. This spring is the second year in a row that has seen substantial topsoil loss in over-tilled, unprotected plot areas. Solutions to this problem will be discussed this summer.

Dave Franzen

NDSU Extension Soil Specialist

This site is supported in part by the Crop Protection and Pest Management Program [grant no. 2017-70006-27144/accession 1013592] from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed are those of the website author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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