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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


Cover Crop Seed Considerations

Today we go back to the beginning of any soil health program - or any crop for that matter - seed. We are joined by Steve Zwinger who is an agronomist at NDSU’s Carrington Research Extension Center and Jason Goltz the Regulatory Manager for the North Dakota State Seed Department. Together we will explore and discover the value of seed selection and how seed labels need to be evaluated prior to making any purchases.

Steve shares that, unlike other crops, cover crop success is not tied to a high grain yield. The focus for cover crops is a quick rate of maturity resulting in putting on biomass and providing shade. Cover crops are used to augment control of erosion and weed growth. The quicker it can get to maturity the quicker it can perform its roll in the soil.

“Rye has been determined to be one of the number one cover crops used by farmers across the country….So one of the things I felt strongly about was the fact that we needed some pedigree or known variety, identity preserved seed out there.” - Steve Zwinger

Steve is an advocate for certified or registered seed. Added regulation provides a standard of “higher quality seed such as germination, seedling vigor, and purity in terms of weed seeds and other things.” Having an identified variety will lead to better variety selection for example farmers in the north need to prioritize winter survivability in making their selection. Any number of goals could be focused on by the farmer to tailor the effect of the cover crop to the field it is planted in.

Steve’s seed breeding work revolves around blending where varieties are blended together. He takes advantage of rye’s ability to be “constantly changing itself and adapting itself to the environment.” While Steve focuses on creating and certifying the variety seed purchased, Jason shares the requirements and regulations in seed..

"If it's going to be planted, it's a seed in state and federal law. Both say that all seed has to be labeled." - Jason Goltz

Just because a crop is not harvested as in the case of the cover crops, does not mean it does not need to be clearly labeled. These labels should identify the type of seed, the quality of the seed and the amount and type of weeds potentially present. Also of great importance, seed has to be labeled for the state it is sold in to comply with local state laws. The significance of this is to avoid transmission of a prohibited noxious weed that may not be illegal in a different state. Visit to find answers to all of your questions regarding seed regulation.

“Variety evaluation and development is a very important aspect in agriculture because it's probably the easiest decision a farmer can make before he enters the field that will have the largest impact on their production.” - Steve Zwinger

This Week on Soil Sense:

  • Meet Steve Zwinger and Jason Goltz as they describe the legality and importance of seed variety selection
  • Explore the techniques used in seed selection
  • Hear what items on the label are of the greatest significance to your operation
  • Discover why rye is a favorite cover crop to use across the country
  • Learn what you need to know before traveling out of state to purchase or sell seed

Connect with Soil Sense:

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

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