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Soil Sense

90 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


Soil Health Dynamic Duo, Part One: Cover Crops

Mark Liebig and Susan Samson-Liebig are two leading soil scientists that work in two different agencies within the USDA. Also, they just happen to be spouses. Mark works as a soil scientist within the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Susan works as a Soil Quality Specialist in the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). ARS is “focused on solving problems for producers” using science based research. NRCS has a “mission to protect the soil and water and all of the natural resources on the land” with methods in compliance with the farm bill. While these two agencies have different objectives they provide support to each other.

“Where our agencies do work pretty close together is on this transfer of the research and then getting it into the hands of people to use.” -Susan Samson-Liebig

Mark has been investigating the use of cover crops for 15 years. A significant factor he has observed in his studies is the effect a timely precipitation can have on the biomass produced. Different seeding times and intercropping practices are currently under investigation to find the best protocols to offer to farmers in the area. While he is encouraged by local farmers adopting some of these practices, he admits that there are endless iterations in cover crop planting for farmers to choose from. Because of this, Mark created a chart to help farmers navigate the many options and decisions required with cover crops based on the current recommendations.

“The chart is our effort to provide a cool tool for producers in helping them to make their decisions on what cover crops they could choose or what mixtures they’d want to put together.” - Mark Liebig

The chart was inspired by the periodic table and illustrates every iteration they have developed at this time. As this chart has been shared it has been expanded. Producers outside of North Dakota have reached out and asked for versions involving their climate and crop options.

“You start there with the chart and you’ll learn a little bit more and then as you graduate then you can go to these other tools.” -Mark Liebig

As transplants from Nebraska, they acknowledge the significant impact the soil health movement has made in North Dakota. Mark comments that the reason for this is that  “from the ground up, from the farmer level, there was just this inherent recognition that we have to protect these resources.” Susan agrees and adds that the people of North Dakota seem open and willing to try new practices and collaborate with researchers.

“The solutions to problems are often better if you can get more input on how things can be solved.”  -Mark Liebig

This Week on Soil Sense:

  • Meet Susan Samson-Liebig and Mark Liebig, both soil scientists that contribute to the industry in two different USDA agencies
  • Mark developed a chart to help farmers better understand cover crop options and easily see the current recommendations offered by ARS
  • Susan works at the NRCS and engages producers to help them conserve their resources

Click here to see the Cover Crop Chart 

Connect with Soil Sense:

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

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