No-till technology transfer project

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dakota lakes research farm

project proposal

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Cropland has a significant impact on the economic and environmental well-being of the state of South Dakota and the northern Great Plains economy. Thirty-nine percent or approximately 17.8 million acres of the land resource in South Dakota is classified as cropland. In 1994, the total cash receipts from farm marketing in South Dakota were $3.662 billion. From this total, $1.665 billion were received directly from crop sales with an additional undetermined amount sold ultimately through livestock sales.
current situation
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Compaction, salinization, loss of biological activity, excessive oxidation of organic matter, and soil erosion are a few of the soil degrading processes that threaten the sustainability of South Dakota's cropland resource. A combination of economic, agronomic, engineering factors, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) farm programs, commodity prices, fluctuations in prices between various crops, etc. have led to the use of production practices which favor increased rates in one or more of these soil degradation processes.

Production practices which accelerate soil degradation not only affect the soil but impact every aspect of the ecosystem. Water quality is often negatively impacted through movement of sediment and sediment associated nutrients or as a result of runoff water concentrating in recharge areas. Lack of cover is a major concern for wildlife especially in the winter and spring. Degradation of air quality associated with blowing dust is becoming recognized as a major concern in South Dakota. These issues will continue to increase in importance to the public and private landowners.

The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) established perennial cover on 1.8 million acres in South Dakota and removed from cultivation approximately 800,000 acres of highly erodible land. During the CRP contract period, most soil degradation processes have stopped and improvements have taken place in soil quality. As these acres of CRP are returned to production, these benefits will be lost quickly unless improved cropping systems are employed.

Cropping systems designed to leave large amounts of surface residue, especially no-till, have the ability to stop soil degradation processes and minimize ecological concerns if they are properly applied. Crop residue management can substantially reduce erosion. However, if other changes are not made along with the reduction in tillage, the increased residue can lead to pest problems, seeding equipment problems, poor seedling emergence, and phytotoxicity which in turn can result in negative economic impacts. Widespread adoption of sustainable practices hinges on implementing no-till systems that are at least economically comparable to commonly used tillage systems and successfully transferring no-till system technology to producers in South Dakota.

The difficulty in implementing the necessary technology transfer process lies in the material which needs to be transferred. Changing from a tilled system to one which does not use tillage brings about profound changes in all components in the farming system. Therefore, by necessity, innovative producers and research farms have employed a SYSTEMS approach where any change in one component was viewed in relation to how it affected other components and the system as a whole. Similarly, farmers wishing to make this change must utilize a systems approach in their component selection process. This means that not only the interested farmer but also the extension, agency, and industry personnel need to be trained on successful no-till SYSTEMS. Traditional methods of technology transfer focus predominately on components (soil fertility, machinery, weed control, diseases, soil conservation, etc.) and have worked quite well for the producer making incremental changes to established systems. SDSU(CES) specialists will play a valuable role in helping producers switching to no-till select appropriate choices; and will help fine tune the system once the switch is made.

There are currently an insufficient number of individuals in South Dakota with the level of training and experience needed to assist farmers in making the switch from a conventional tillage system to an economically and environmentally viable no-till system. Operators cannot afford to learn through trial and error. They need planning and application assistance to properly implement an intensive no-till system. To attain the needed technical capability to assist these producers in a quality manner, additional personnel trained in the application of a "SYSTEMS" approach to no-till are needed in South Dakota.

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This proposal is designed to enhance the transfer of no-till SYSTEM technology to interested producers. This task can best be completed by a cooperative venture between the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS), the SDSU Cooperative Extension Service (SDSU-CES), the SDSU Agriculture Experiment Station (SDSU-AES), lead (innovative, early adopters) producers, and the SD No-Till Association. These partners will encourage relationships with the following related agencies and private organizations in attaining the goals of this project: SD Department of Agriculture, SD Department of Environment and Natural Resources, USDA Agriculture Research Service (USDA-ARS), SD Department of Game, Fish & Parks, Ducks Unlimited, USDA Farm Service Agency (USDA-FSA), and SD Association of Conservation Districts.

The proposed medium for transferring SYSTEMS concepts is through lead contact personnel. This proposal includes six to eight teams; each composed of a selected CES agent, NRCS conservationist, industry agronomist (private consultants, seed company agronomists, fertilizer and ag chemical fieldmen, etc.) and 2 or 3 lead farmers from six to eight areas throughout the state. The selected agency individuals will be those who have the desire to increase their knowledge on no-till farming SYSTEMS, be available to help producers find correct solutions for their area and be supported by their respective agencies who would supply the needed resources to transfer no-till technology. Training these people in the SYSTEMS approach to no-till is a primary priority in this proposed cooperative venture. Armed with this knowledge and backed by the existing SDSU(CES) specialists they should be very effective in helping producers design successful systems. The selected (agency and/or private) individual teams will serve as local support by being available for producer meetings and farm calls when no-till SYSTEMS knowledge is needed in their portion of the state.

The people responsible for training these teams would be existing SDSU(CES) soil, weed, crop, entomologist, plant pathologist, power and machinery, computer, and forage specialists; a NRCS conservationist; selected lead no-till producers; agribusiness agronomists; research personnel and other no-till experts as identified. The training will be a combination of classroom type presentations, tours of appropriate research sites, and farmer field tours at each of the six to eight areas throughout the state. These workshops will be arranged in junction with scheduled research site tours and/or plot maintenance with SDSU(CES) specialists to efficiently utilize their time and travel.

The SDSU(CES) specialists and the NRCS conservationist will provide at least two training sessions each year designed for NRCS conservationists and county extension personnel with agronomic interests. These training sessions would be designed to enable these people to answer the basic no-till questions and assist the beginning no-tillers. The South Dakota Certified Crop Advisors Continuing Education Unit board will be contacted to determine if these training sessions are eligible for CEUs.

Another top priority of this cooperative project is to organize existing information into a format that is easily accessible by anyone wanting information on no-till farming at any time. This will provide a central access point for information related to no-till that traditionally is supplied through various independent sources. One method of achieving this goal is to create a home page on the World Wide Web containing information and linking to other appropriate home pages. This method will need to have additional partnerships formed to complete the task.

One primary individual or "project leader" is sufficient to meet the priorities outlined assuming that person has the right background and is given adequate support. All agencies will commit to a two year project. USDA-NRCS will commit to a project leader position for two years. After a two year effort the partners will evaluate and determine future program needs.

NRCS and SDSU(CES) will commit to providing personnel for the previously described six to eight teams which will be trained in no-till farming SYSTEMS approach.

The equipment needed to meet the proposal's objective will be supplied by cooperating agencies and agribusinesses.

Secretarial support (0.5 FTE) will be supplied by SDSU(AES) and SDSU(CES) for a two year commitment.

The SDSU(CES) specialists and the NRCS conservationist will assist one another by asking and answering each others questions and exchanging up-to-date component information via telephone, fax, voice messaging, and e-mail.

Each cooperating agency will appoint a person to serve on a board which will be responsible for evaluating the progress of the project on a quarterly basis.

See the 1997 and 1998 budgets for agency commitments.

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| Project Home | Proposal | 1997 Budget | 1998 Budget | Start-up Expenses
| Total | 1997 Plan of Work | 1998 Plan of Work |
| Project Phase II | Budget | Training Sessions | Milestone Table | Progress |
| Project Team Members | SARE Grant |

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