A collective effort to increase sustainable ag production through diversification and improved soil health.
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PIERRE, SD – Improved soil health, increased profitability, and reduced spread of wildfire are among the many benefits that arise from keeping livestock on the landscape. Efforts are underway in California and South Dakota to connect landowners with livestock managers...
When David Neuharth started his 3Y3 Ranch in the 1980s near Hayes, SD, he noticed a trend among area producers. “Everything in this country and in Stanley County around in the area was pretty much a 50-50 deal,” David said. “Half summer fallow … and the other half was...
South Dakota is known for its variety, and Don Nickelson’s operation in Frederick is no exception. With the help of his wife, Trista, and sons Aiden, Gavin, and Ian, Nickelson raises cattle and also grows corn, soybeans, oats, triticale and alfalfa in addition to some...
The South Dakota Soil Health Coalition is a producer led, non-profit, membership organization that was created in the spring of 2015. The Coalition is governed by a nine-member board of farmers and ranchers from across the state and includes several staff members. Staff and board members strive to carry out the Coalition’s mission to “Promote Improved Soil Health” through education and research.
5 Principles of soil health
1. Soil Cover
Keep plant residues on the soil surface. Look down, what percentage of your soil is protected by residue? Erosion needs to be minimized before you can start building soil health.
2. Limited Disturbance
Minimize tillage as much as possible. You will start building soil aggregates, pore spaces, soil biology, and organic matter.
3. Living Roots
Keep plants growing throughout the year to feed the soil. Cover crops can add carbon to the soil, providing a great food source for micro-organisms. Start small to find the best fit for your operation.
Try to mimic nature. Use cool and warm season grasses and broad leaf plants as much as possible, with three or more crops and cover crops in rotation. Grassland and cropland plant diversity increases soil and animal health.
5. Integrating Livestock
Fall/winter grazing of cover crops and crop residue increases livestock’s plane of nutrition at a time when pasture forage quality can be low, increases the soil biological activity on cropland, and improves nutrient cycling. Proper grassland management improves soil health.
Soil Health Benefits
Builds organic matter which retains and cycles nitrogen and sequesters carbon; which in turn reduces fertilizer and fuel costs.
Improves water infiltration and retention which helps to better manage the effects of flood or drought and improves trafficability.
Healthy soils filter and clean water that moves through it, for improved water quality.
Stabilizes soil aggregates which improves resistance to erosion by wind and water.
Enhances wildlife habitat and balances the biological community above and below ground.
DID YOU KNOW?
Healthy soil will be key to feeding 9 billion people by 2050.
Earthworm populations consume 2 tons of dry matter per acre per year, partly digesting and mixing it to form healthy soil.
Healthy soil is made of about 45% minerals 25% water 5% organic matter and 25% air.
One teaspoon of healthy soil contains 100 million–1 billion individual bacteria.