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Farmers talk soil

MANNING -- Area farmers halted their tractors and left their fields Monday to attend the Dunn County Soil Health Tour.

Around a dozen farmers and ranchers turned out for the soil health tour, which was hosted by the Dunn County Soil

Conservation District,

Dickinson Research Extension Center and the U.S.

Department of Agriculture Natural Resource

Conservation Service.

The tour began at the

Southwest North Dakota Soil Health Demonstration Plots, two miles south of Manning on Highway 22.

There are eight fields in total that make up the site, and each of the fields range in size from 13 to 19 acres of cropland.

The soil demonstration plots were created in 2008 to

showcase for farmers and growers how they can maintain good soil health through no tillage and a diverse crop


"These are public grounds that could really use some help and that made this a good place for us to do this project," said Jon Stika, area resource soil scientist for the NRCS

Dickinson Area Office. "In my point of view, good stuff has been done here. We're not

publishing this in a journal, but what we learn we will be able to use to tell farmers about processes they can try in their own fields to cut back on

chemical and fertilizer usage."

Other stops made along the tour included the Dickinson Research Extension Center's Sainfoin Seeding plot, the Dukart Ranch in Manning and the Bob Ferebee Ranch in


Garry Ottmar, a lifetime farmer, has been with the

Dickinson Research Extension Center for 34 years, working now as a livestock research


"Before this project started and it would rain, this field would be like a lake," Ottmar said. "Now we've got an

infiltration system going and it has been really helped."

Ottmar and his wife, Wanda, also manage the North Dakota State University Dickinson Research Extension Ranch

Headquarters that is near


He said farmers generally are looking for new ways that will help improve their crop

production without the use of

chemicals, which can burn a hole in their pockets.

Through Dunn County's Soil Health Demonstration, the hope is that farmers gained new ideas they will be able to put into action back home.

"Cover crops help farmers be able to use fewer chemicals, which I have noticed with my soil tests over the last five years I've been working with cover crops," Ottmar said. "Using fewer chemicals could help farmers save money, and money can be what makes it or breaks it for farmers these days, so hopefully learning how they can cut back on fertilizers and other chemical uses on their fields will help."

Jolyn Wasem, district clerk for the Dunn County

Conservation District based in Manning, said the goal of the soil health tour was to heighten'

awareness of the importance that having good soil health can mean to a farmer's fields.

She said the county-funded Dunn County Conservation

District and the NRCS, which is federally-funded, are both in the same location.

Both of the organizations are located at 105 Rodeo Drive in Killdeer.

But Wasem said the

main focuses of the two

organizations are different.

The conservation district focuses on trees and soil

testing, Wasem said.

In comparison, the NRCS is focused on topics that range from conservation to animal grazing and crop rotations.

Wasem said the organizations are open to assisting any

producers in the area who want help to improve, or startup, soil conservation practices on their own farming operations.

"We want to give them ideas that they can take back and make their operations better on their own farms and ranches," Wasem said. "It's also good too that they get to come out here learn and share their thoughts with their neighbors down the street. We all learn from each other. out here."