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Soil Sense

89 EpisodesProduced by NDSU ExtensionWebsite

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… read more


The Power of Perennials with Clair Keene, Ph.D.

We have a really fascinating episode for you today about incorporating perennials into crop rotations. In the past, we have discussed the many soil health benefits of keeping living roots in the soil year round, diversifying rotations, and minimizing soil disturbance. Perennials are great options for all of the above. Joining us is Dr. Clair Keene, extension specialist in cropping systems at NDSU at the Williston Research Extension Center in northwest North Dakota. Clair shares how she is working with farmers to incorporate perennials for a variety of reasons including managing salts and reclaiming topsoil after pipeline construction. We also discuss the profitability of these crops relative to annual row crops with benefits in decreased inputs and management.

“What some people maybe don't factor in as they think about maybe how much money they're not getting in bushels of grain off those acres, but there’s also how many dollars in inputs you're not spending. You're not paying for new seed each year and you're probably not going to be fertilizing it each year. Many stands and perennials once they get going, they don't even need weed control, so you're not spraying....So once those perennials are well-established, they're really taking care of themselves.” - Dr. Clair Keene

Mowing and bailing can become the major annual expense with a good forage for livestock feed as a profitable outcome. With an initial investment in seeding you still can be more profitable overtime than annual cash crops as you “spread the initial costs out” over several years. She goes on to share further benefits including resolving and managing salinity issues in certain locations. These crops better “manage the water table” and keep the water engaged in the plant life cycle rather than evaporating and leaving salt behind. Kernza is an up and coming intermediate wheat grass that has been selected for grain characteristics. The hope is to get a harvest for three to four years and not to need tillage or fertilization resulting in a “potentially very big cost savings.”

“I'm excited about it because of the potential flexibility it offers.…. Because kernza has been specifically developed for its soil health benefits, there's already a small, but strong and growing niche market that wants to buy the grain. There is a lot of interest in kernza grain.” - Dr. Clair Keene

This Week on Soil Sense:

  • Meet Dr. Clair Keene, extension specialist in cropping systems at NDSU at the Williston Research Extension Center in northwest North Dakota.
  • Discover the many soil and financial benefits of using perennials to manage salinity and overall soil health
  • Learn about the development and potential of Kernza as an additional perennial crop that can share these benefits

Connect with Soil Sense:

Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.

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