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Composting Techniques for Plant Residue - Ranchers Guide to Grassland Management - Will DON Affect Germination?

Published November 2, 2014
Composting Techniques for Plant Residue - Ranchers Guide to Grassland Management - Will DON Affect Germination?

The three-bin method of compost production

Composting Techniques for Plant Residue

As the growing season comes to a close homeowners are raking leaves, cleaning the garden, amongst other things which will prepare the landscape for next year’s growing season. 

Unfortunately, much of the plant residue ends up in the area landfill.  This is a practice which did not pass through the minds of North Dakota’s early settlers because there were no petroleum based fertilizers.  Barnyard manure, straw, corncobs etc. were all placed back into the soil to return some nutrient value and maintain the high organic matter levels characterized of North Dakota soils.

Because of the availability of today’s commercial fertilizers it is convenient to dispose of plant residue through our garbage disposal system.  However, some homeowners do successfully attempt to provide plant nutrients and maintain the organic matter level along with stabilizing soil structure through the practice of composting. 

Basically, there are two acceptable systems for compost production.  Tom Kalb, NDSU Extension Horticulturist, describe them as cool and hot.  The cool system is simply a pile of leaves, grass clippings, egg shells, pea pods and/or materials of organic nature which slowly decomposes into humus.

The hot system is designed to speed-up the decomposition system and in doing so will kill most of the weed seeds and other plant disease organisms.

Details of installing both systems can be found in an Extension fact sheet H885 “Composting Practices”.  You may stop by or call our office 701-577-4595 for a copy or access our website www.ag.ndsu.edu/williamscountyextension.

Ranchers Guide to Grassland Management

As long as I am on the topic of NDSU publications, I absolutely need to call attention to a very new publication R1707 “Ranchers Guide to Grassland Management IV”.  This is a great guide intended to serve as a quick reference for ranchers looking for information on grazing management.  It covers a variety of subjects relating to range, pasture and hayland management.

The publication helps readers understand the many ecological sites frequently found in any given pasture, native range plants that are a part of the pasture along with frequently found introduced grass species.  Additionally, there is an entire chapter which helps to determine stocking rates and carrying capacity.

Another section presents plant species selection for giving pasture and hayland selection.  I believe the authors Kevin Sedivec, NDSU Rangeland Management Specialist and Jeffrey Printz, NRCS State Rangeland Management Specialist, provide good alternatives to western and eastern North Dakota range sites.

Another issue in the publication focuses on seeding guidelines and seeding rates.  It goes as far as recognizing the number of seeds per pound of numerous grasses and legumes.  Other subjects included are grazing management techniques and plant development as it relates to grazing readiness.

The publication also discusses riparian grazing management, a topic we cattlemen give very little attention.  Protecting riparian’s reduces pollutants, mostly animal waste, from entering valuable water for humans, wildlife and even animals themselves.  This section provides some neat ideas which even Northwestern environments can benefit.

More topics in the publication are hayland and haying management, annual forages, cover crops, renovating CRP for pasture and hayland, range nutrition, nutrition value of forages, fencing options, water quantity and quality, noxious and poisonous weeds and drought management strategies.

There are 100 pages to this publication.  It can be downloaded from our website.  However, we intend to order several copies from NDSU making them available directly from the Williams County Extension Office (701-577-4595).

Will DON Affect Germination?

That depends largely when the grain kernels were infected with deoxynivalenol (DON).  An early infection of DON will cause the grain kernel to be shriveled and discolored from white to pink colors.  The kernels very likely will have poor germination.  Late infection of scab will cause no visual effects that can have detectable DON levels.

Work at NDSU and the State Seed Department indicates DON does not affect germination directly in the same way as lighter weight and discolored kernels.  Whether or not your grain contains DON and you plan to use it for seed next year it is highly recommend having it tested for germinations.

-Warren Froelich

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