Welcome to the Soil Sense Podcast, where we believe that building healthier soils is not just a prescription, but rather a pursuit. This journey requires collaboration, curiosity, and communication among farmers, agricultural researchers, agronomists, consultants, and extension. You’re going to hear their stories and discover how and why they’re working together to make sense out of what’s happening in the soil.
Soil to Cereal with Dr. Steve Rosenzweig of General Mills
33:29Dr. Steve Rosenzweig is a soil scientist and the agriculture science lead at General Mills. General Mills is a leading American producer of consumer foods, especially flour, breakfast cereals, snacks, prepared mixes, and similar products. Along with co-host Dr. Abbey Wick, we discuss how General Mills is looking at soil health and regenerative agriculture, how they view their role in agricultural sustainability, and what insights they’ve learned from being involved in soil health initiatives for several years. “We wanted to be out there helping to figure out how do we conduct on-farm research with farmers to really understand what they're learning and what they're seeing on their farms. So that's kind of where we started, was really on that research side. And then it's really just been about forming partnerships with folks that are in the communities that we are sourcing these ingredients from and really understand that local context.” - Dr. Steve Rosenzweig Steve joined the company in 2017,after earning his Ph.D. in soil science at Colorado State University. He says his role is to help find scientifically-driven ways to increase adoption of soil health principles in the areas where they source key ingredients for their products. He also works on the science side to see how to measure things like soil health, biodiversity, water, and farm economics at scale. “Our entire business is resting on the resilience and ability of farmers to keep farming essentially. So increasingly our leadership investors really want to make sure that we are investing to make sure that General Mills is going to be around for another 150 years… And really forming these kinds of partnerships and really helping to support farmers and increase their viability, longevity, and resilience is what we've realized is a business imperative. Their business is our business essentially.” - Dr. Steve Rosenzweig This Week on Soil Sense: Continue the discussion and explore some of the support behind the Trusted Advisor Partnership program Meet Dr. Steve Rosenzweig, a soil scientist and the agriculture science lead at General Mills and learn about the purpose behind their involvement in the TAP program Explore the role General Mills will play and the initiatives they are taking to promote soil health Visit Trusted Advisor Partnership to learn more and sign up for more information
Trusted Advisor Partnership with Abbey Wick, Ph.D.
25:29Many food companies have become increasingly more interested in what part they can play in building healthier soils. If they’re in it for the long haul and truly want to develop partnerships with farmers, it will take an intentional and dedicated approach to collaborating with growers and their trusted advisors to figure out what might be right in each individual situation. “What if we all just worked on this together and used this great organization out of Vermont called the Sustainable Food Lab that works with all these companies regularly? How about we bring all these ideas together and come up with one program for the entire state of North Dakota? And let's not base it on these ideas of just paying farmers to adopt practices, but let's actually make those practices stick.” - Dr. Abbey Wick That’s exactly what the Trusted Advisor Partnership is seeking to do. In this episode you’ll hear about how a group of food and beverage companies is working together with the mission of introducing new soil health building practices on 500,000 acres in North Dakota in the next five years. To make that happen, they have enlisted the help of Dr. Abbey Wick, the Sustainable Food Lab and crop consultants like Dr. Lee Briese and Jason Hanson, to lead certified crop advisors through the process of trying these practices. This is a great episode for understanding how food companies can work together with farmers to create lasting change. “I think if we can get these companies to work together like they are, the CCA has the knowledge of all those programs and can pick the best one for the grower, take it to them, then the grower signs up for it and then the company now can say we've influenced “X” acres in North Dakota.” - Dr. Abbey Wick This Week on Soil Sense: Discover the Trusted Advisor Partnership program and how this may impact soil health in North Dakota over the next five years and the benefits it offers producers beyond improved soil health Learn how the program hopes to gain traction over time towards its initial goal of influencing soil health practices over 500,000 acres in North Dakota Explore the roles crop advisors Dr. Lee Briese and Jason Hanson will play in creating content to deliver to participating CCAs Visit Trusted Advisor Partnership to learn more and sign up for more information
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Field Check Season Finale: No Such Thing as a One-Size-Fits-All
11:14In this episode we revisit some highlights of the most useful and important information shared through the first fourteen Field Check segments. You’re going to hear from experts like Dr. Abbey Wick, Dr. Lee Briese, Mark Huso, Jason Hanson, and Angie Johnson. These highlights cover topics ranging from cover crops, moisture management, crop rotation, salinity, farm safety and more. The overall message throughout is that there is no one right way to build healthier soils. It’s all about finding out what each individual field needs, and having the tools and expertise to execute on that. “Tons of ways to get cover crops in the system, whether you have the equipment to broadcast and that seems like the best fit for you time wise and logistics wise. Or if you have the time to put somebody into a tractor with a drill and seed the cover crop after harvest… I think they're gonna improve the soil in many ways. Not only trafficability at harvest, but managing moisture at harvest and also again in the springtime at planting.” - Dr. Abbey Wick Crop consultant Lee Briese says it’s all about assessing each individual field and designing the right system on a field-by-field basis. “You make sure you’ve got the right tool for what you’re doing.” It’s this field by field approach that has led Mark Huso down the road of using the term “field health” to reference not just soil health. He chooses to focus on overall long term productivity of a particular field. “A healthy field raises a good crop and there’s different ways to get there.” Mark and his farmer customers are finding success in diversifying crop rotations to manage issues such as saline areas. Jason Hanson also shares some of his thoughts on approaching the issue of salinity and consulting with peers to tackle similar obstacles. You're gonna have to use the weapons you have in your arsenal, and that is going to be if you can get any surface drainage, any internal tiling done…. No one likes to split up fields and do that type of thing. I think more people are listening to that because other people are doing it. The best peers out there are other consultants, other farmers in particular that are actually doing these things. They just said, “This isn't working. We gotta try something else.” And that's what you do. - Jason Hanson Follow the link www.NDFieldCheck.com to participate in our next question and answer segment to share your questions and get them answered by the experts! Connect with Soil Sense at Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
Field Check: Systems Thinking
10:59In this episode you’ll hear from a number of farmers and consultants about their systems-based approach to farming and soil health. Starting with Ontario farmers Woody Van Arkle who recalls the first time he heard Dr. Lee Briese speak to a group of farmers. His practical approach is the result of looking at a field as a system. Lee, who is a crop consultant for Centrol Ag Consulting, stresses this systems-based thinking approach to farming and soil health. “What are you gonna do? Where's your next crop? Where are you going? How's this gonna be? So I can't just stand in front of a room of 300 people and say, there you go. You start here and then you go here and you go here and you go here. You simply can't do that…. There is no prescription, but you're trying to teach people to be an ecosystem's manager. To do that, you have to be observing what's happening.” - Dr. Lee Briese North Dakota farmer Mark Olson found out that strip tillage was the right approach for his system. He’s seen the results in both his soil and his yields, and he even says the approach saved his crop a couple of years ago. He tells other farmers to “keep learning, never quit and keep trying.” Mark’s crop consultant, Matt Olson (no relation), said he had a few concerns when Mark wanted to dive headfirst into cover crops and strip tillage but said the results have been undeniable. “All of a sudden we started going from 40 bushel soybeans to 60 bushel soybeans by implementing strip till and cover crops. Also seeing that we probably weren't introducing any new weeds. We were actually getting better weed control by having the ground covered which is huge for us in our water hemp neck of the woods and kosha neck of the woods and stuff like that.” - Matt Olson Follow the link www.NDFieldCheck.com to participate in our next question and answer segment to share your questions and get them answered by the experts! Connect with Soil Sense at Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
Field Check: Residue Management
10:58In this episode we talk about a problem that many farmers run into on their soil health journeys: residue management. But rather than just focus on one field, we’ve collected a handful of different perspectives and experiences for you. You’ll hear from two farmers and two researchers about this challenge and how they’re finding ways to maximize the benefits of residue while managing the challenges that can come with it. Farmer Sam Landman describes the problems that residue has caused on his farm in the past, and how he’s tried to address them. He is in the process of trying different seeding equipment and timing to better manage his residue issue. “We're wrestling with high moisture in our soils, being able to get into it, and then also high residue. We have hair pinning problems with our no-till equipment, like our single disc drills and disc planters and stuff. If the residue isn't quite dry or if it's too thick it'll hair pin and then the seed won't have any soil contact and it won't come up…. so we're having residue management challenges and moisture challenges and that's the biggest thing.” - Sam Landman Soil Scientist Dr. Caley Gasch addressed this challenge at a previous DIRT workshop. Caley has since moved from NDSU up to Alaska, but she is included in this episode to help explain how a more biologically active soil can eventually help reduce some of these residue issues. Caley’s colleague Dr. Aaron Daigh, who is now at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln speaks to the challenge of getting soil with residue to heat up in the spring. He says shallow vertical tillage might be a good option for many farmers. “You kind of have to get a little creative by incorporating some cover crops to change those carbon-nitrogen ratios so that that residue starts to decompose. Or maybe you try strip till as sort of your transition tool to migrate into a reduced till system. But as that soil begins to recover, as those microbes and fungi and, and earthworms and insects return to that soil and boost their numbers in response to the lack of disturbance, they're gonna take care of that residue over time.” - Dr. Caley Gasch Follow the link www.NDFieldCheck.com to participate in our next question and answer segment to share your questions and get them answered by the experts! Connect with Soil Sense at Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
Field Check: Barley and Soil Health
11:10In this episode we talk about the challenge of getting cover crops implemented in a system, and highlight how barley can be a helpful crop in overcoming some of these challenges. You’re going to hear from two guests today: Dr. Dave Franzen, soil scientist with NDSU Extension, and Jason Hanson, crop consultant and owner of Rock & Roll Agronomy. Dr. Franzen shares about the challenges of getting cover crops established in a corn/soybean rotation in North Dakota. “If you just look at the corn and soybean rotation, the opportunity to grow some kind of a cover crop is pretty low in this region. But with barley, you're taking it off early in the season. You often have two months time for you to grow a cover crop. And it's not unusual to grow a ton of dry matter with rye or oats and or radish or just leaving the barley as a volunteer and using that as the grass, which is to me, the cheapest thing to do. So that's a big win.” - Dr. Dave Franzen Unfortunately, every year we see soil from farmer’s fields blowing away. Dr. Franzen has been studying the impacts of barley added into these rotations, and says he can confidently answer the question on whether or not it can help the soil health. Jason echoes this solution and introduces us to one of his farmers’ fields of barley and how they’re approaching their management and soil health. Jason says that going no till is definitely an option for some of his farmers, but others don’t want to go down that road. He points out that even for those who have to work the field, there are options for minimizing disturbance. “It's all part of a system that you gotta sit and look back and look at your rotation, your farmer, his equipment, how the harvest is gonna go. I guess that's the fun part and the challenge. It's not easy…. It's like if we do this, we have to think ahead of time as to what we want to do.” - Jason Hanson Follow the link www.NDFieldCheck.com to participate in our next question and answer segment to share your questions and get them answered by the experts! Connect with Soil Sense at Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
Field Check: Crop Rotation with Mark Huso
11:22In this episode we are back with Mark Huso of Huso Crop Consulting based in Lakota, North Dakota. Mark shares about the value he has found in diversifying crop rotations. Over the years in working with several different farmers, Mark has seen the value both agronomically and economically in adding crops to the rotation, as long as they contribute to what he calls field health: which combines soil health and productivity. It can be difficult, he admits, for some farmers to initially get excited about the idea of considering new crops for the rotation. “We've always had the option. It feels like we're choosing simplicity over crop rotation…So don't fix what's not broken. However, as the guys have included a third crop, a fourth crop, a fifth crop, a sixth crop, a seventh crop. We have two farms that have seven crops on their farms because they're seeing a benefit to adding different crops in the rotation.” - Mark Huso Mark has seen firsthand how this diversification can improve field health, water utilization, weed suppression, operational efficiencies, and even help to manage salinity. While barley is known for being a great crop for saline areas, Mark says changing things up to include not only barley but also other crops, can really help. “It's taking away the saline areas, you know the corn grew past the soybean ground. The sunflowers are growing past where the corn stocks were. So it's managing the salinity as we're seeing that ground improve. Now, if we had just stayed barley soybeans, barley soybeans, barley soybeans. It would be the same or get worse, but because we changed rotations and the roots in the soil are changing, we're utilizing more water. We're managing salinity that way by simply changing the crop.” - Mark Huso We often talk about soil health on this show, but talking about field health is a very intentional distinction in the way that Mark looks at things. Once a farmer heads down this road, just like anything else, it’s not always going to be smooth sailing. Mark says the overall results have been positive, but sometimes logistics can become a challenge. “A healthy field is a field that raises a great crop. And so that is based on drainage, it's based on crop rotation and it's based on the field being weed free, a clean field. And so sometimes my no-till fields are some of the dirtier fields, because they're tougher to manage. But after a couple years they're the cleanest fields because they've been managed the right way. And so I'm trying to change my soil health more to field health.” - Mark Huso Follow the link www.NDFieldCheck.com to participate in our next question and answer segment to share your questions and get them answered by the experts! Connect with Soil Sense at Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
Field Check: Practical Approaches to Soil Health with Mark Huso
10:54In this episode we are joined by Mark Huso of Huso Crop Consulting based in Lakota, North Dakota. After working in ag retail, Mark decided to start his own company over a decade ago doing independent crop consulting. This year has been especially challenging for Mark’s producers. He was really happy with the way things were looking with cattails and with the fields in general last fall, but 2022 snow and rains really have made things difficult. He shares about some of the unique challenges his farmers have experienced, how they have approached prevent plant acres, and how he wishes more people would look at tillage. “We had a lot of fall tillage done, fields were in really nice shape. We were gonna get a lot of acres back. And then towards the end of fall right before freeze up, we had a fair amount of rain. Then we had a lot of snow and then we had a lot of rain coming into March, April and into May. And so, very challenging, very late start, awfully wet….So what we were hoping was going to be a tremendous 2022 in terms of acres, production and efficiency did not happen.” - Mark Huso In difficult times like this in North Dakota, we end up with a lot of prevent plant acres. Initial considerations involve weed management, cover crop selections and residue management followed by what crop will they pursue in 2023. And this is an important consideration for cover crops in general. Before deciding what to plant it’s important to make sure it’s compatible with whatever you’re hoping to plant into that ground the following year. “I would try to let that (cover) crop go as long as you can. The benefits of cover crop and radish and turnip is letting them grow in the soil and get a nice established root system. So if we do get a lot of rain again, this fall and winter, it has somewhere to go...When we put a soil probe in a prevent plant field that has a full season radish, turnip and rye mix. I mean, there is no compaction. Those roots are doing what they're supposed to do, and they're providing a nice root structure for that soil, allowing for water to drain through that. We can smell it. We can feel it. You can see it. There's something real to those cover crops being in the soil.” - Mark Huso Over the years, Mark has seen the pros and cons of a variety of farming practices. His overall advice to farmers is to experiment with what works best for your particular operation and to use tools such as tillage in a way that's as needed rather than applied generally across the farm. “Not jumping in with both feet. That has hurt more than it's helped. I mean I'm all for trying new things. My brother Scott would say, “You can't swim if you don't dive in.” And sure, that's right for a lot of applications, but you know, this year for example, to be honest…the straight up no-till was some of our most troublesome fields….And so you don't need your great-grandfather's tillage. You need your type of tillage for 2022…I'm calling it tillage by assignment.” - Mark Huso Follow the link www.NDFieldCheck.com to participate in our next question and answer segment to share your questions and get them answered by the experts! Connect with Soil Sense at Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
Field Check: Vetting Biological Inputs
10:55Field testing new products is an important and sometimes overlooked role that agronomists and crop consultants can play. Jason Hanson joins us again on the program to talk about the types of products he has been testing, what has worked and what hasn’t worked for him in the past. He shares how these trials help to lower risk for farmers on products that even if great, might not be great for their area. You may remember, Jason is a crop consultant and the owner of Rock and Roll Agronomy based in Webster, North Dakota. “Consultants are inherently very conservative when it comes to spending their clients money and trying to find things that will benefit them, whether that is post emerge spraying, fertility, or trying to find information on bio stimulants. All these things that are approaching the market. I'm gonna look at some products they are saying can alleviate or work on salinity…Now, I don't know how it's going to do what it does, but I want to see what is out there because sometimes you gotta step out of your comfort zone and give anything the benefit of the doubt.” - Jason Hanson Just like farmers only get one opportunity a year to make a crop, researchers and agronomists only get one shot to get good data on these emerging products. Jason says ultimately, it’s all about trying to lower the risk for farmers, and save them money. He says at the moment he’s looking at a few different biological products, including biostimulants. “I'm really interested in some of the things they have to say and what they're doing but I have to validate it with my customers to see that it's there as well. So to go from putting on N P K to reducing it and putting on something else… I'd still like to try it, because a lot of times companies will come out with this is the national average, and then you can find parts of the country, whether that's fertility, whether that's fungicide, where it's a lot higher.” - Jason Hanson In the past Jason has found success with soybean innoculants. Biofungicides and insecticides have not been proven more beneficial than conventional methods for Jason and his clients. At the core of his recommendations is research, data and results in his area. While he sees biostimulants as the future of agriculture he hasn’t seen sufficient data to be able to know when and how to confidently recommend their use at this time. Follow the link www.NDFieldCheck.com to participate in our next question and answer segment to share your questions and get them answered by the experts! Connect with Soil Sense at Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.
Field Check: Perennial Cover Crops and Baling
11:06In this episode we talk about full season and perennial cover crops. These are great options in not only prevent plant situations, but also trying to manage the health of saline soils. As we’ve done on several episodes of this season of Field Check, we will also highlight the agronomic, logistical, and safety considerations when growing these types of cover crops. Assistant professor and soil health extension specialist Dr. Abbey Wick, said she has been expecting a lot of prevented planting acres this year. “I think farmers are working as hard as they can as quickly as they can to get crops in the field, but some of those areas, or some of those fields are just gonna be ones that they're not gonna get to. And so in that case, we really wanna encourage a full season cover crop to manage that field just like you would with a cash crop.” - Dr. Abbey Wick Abbey recommends looking at the NDSU Soil Health Cover Crop Booklet and the Grazing Cover Crop Booklet for more insight and information into this process. Dr. Kevin Sedivec, who as many of you know is a professor of range science at NDSU, says to prioritize soil health first when selecting full season cover crops. He also recommends considering whether you’ll be leaving it idle, grazing it or haying it. “We should always think of soil health first. If I can create a food base to enhance the soils, I can then tweak that to make it good for livestock.” - Dr. Kevin Sedivec Kevin highlights that if bailing is selected you need to understand that you are removing carbon from your ecosystem. He says there is a balance to be considered and achieved with regard to how much carbon you are adding with manure from livestock and how much you are removing with bailing. If you do decide to bail your cover crops, there are some really important safety considerations to also keep in mind. NDSU extension farm and ranch safety coordinator. Angie Johnson says it's especially important to remember safe practices when operating baling equipment. “There are so many moving parts, whether you've got a belt baler, a chain baler, or a roller baler. With all of those rotating parts, you have extra areas where we call pinch points or rat points, so areas where you can get your fingers or limbs in some pretty serious danger. And so focus on reading that operator's manual on how you perform maintenance.” - Angie Johnson Follow the link www.NDFieldCheck.com to participate in our next question and answer segment to share your questions and get them answered by the experts! Connect with Soil Sense at Soil Sense Initiative Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.