Michael Knudson1, Abbey Foster Wick2, Thomas M. DeSutter3 and Chandra Heglund2, (1)North Dakota State University, Grand Forks, ND (2)Soil Science, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND (3)North Dakota State University, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND
Many producers in North Dakota are faced with loss in productivity as a result of saline affected soils. Management is challenging as this problem is increasing across the landscape. This is partly due to the climatic wet-cycle our region has experienced, resulting in higher groundwater elevations transporting dissolved salts upwards into the rooting zone, along with surface and subsurface flow of water redistributing salts across the landscape. Additionally, shifts in agricultural management practices over time have also contributed. Producers are looking for educational opportunities to learn the basics of salinity and movement of salts in soils as well as guidance on adapting new management strategies. NDSU Extension has identified a need to engage producers in research where educational demonstrations and dialogue between producers and Extension can occur. The Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) research and demonstration site in Grand Forks County has met these needs. The Grand Forks Field Day in 2014 had over 30 attendees. Soil Health Café Talks had over 25 attendees and resulted in a 13.5% increase of attendees comfort level in managing saline soils and using cover crops. In 2014, cover crop biomass yields were similar across treatments, and within drainage management. Also, no significant differences were observed among soybean yields for the check and gypsum plots within drainage management. However, there was not enough soil water to hold back in 2014 so the control drainage best described free drainage. Veris mapping found that Electrical Conductivity (EC) increases deeper in the soil profile and that there is an upwelling of salts near CRP land transitioning to cropland. In 2015, the Grand Forks site continues to study how cover crops influence salinity, soil health, and profitability. Multiple growing seasons should give a good idea about the usefulness of cover crops for managing saline soils.