The Langdon Research Extension Center (LREC) could not have asked for better weather to hold their annual field day than Thursday, July 18. The excellent weather gave the presenters and attendees alike a comfortable outdoor environment to share and learn the latest in agriculture trends in Cavalier County and, specifically, the Langdon area.
By Melissa Anderson
Research Agronomist Bryan Hanson gave an overview on the impact faba beans could have on the crop rotations for the area. Faba beans have been gaining more and more interest from area producers as a way to get nitrogen into the soil to improve the health of the soil and as a benefit as a possible cover crop.
Hanson quickly explained the different types of faba beans, the tannin and non-tannin variety, as well as the planting, inoculation, and harvesting practices that have thus far been working well with the potential new rotational crop. The faba bean does not have much to worry about in terms of pests as the only insects that Hanson noted affect them are the lygus bug and potentially blister beetles.
“Diseases for faba beans…it’s a little more tolerant to the root rot diseases than the peas would be. The biggest problem we have is chocolate spot,” Hanson said.
LREC Director Randy Mehlhoff explained the important work that research stations like LREC do in building foundation seed stock for producers. Over 500 acres of LREC’s available land is dedicated to growing foundation seed. In 2019, there are 21 different varieties of six different crops being grown to build up seed.
“We are ramping up our foundation seed program not to grow what we think we need to grow, but we are trying to guess what you guys want to grow. Hopefully, we pick the right crops to increase and it’s the ones that you demand,” Mehlhoff said.
Mehlhoff continued explaining the challenges that research centers face in growing seed for producers as they compete with private seed companies. It takes ten years to create a new variety, and at that point the seed is distributed to local county crop improvement as it’s the local board that knows those individuals that are very successful at growing seed. The local crop improvement is able to sell that seed as registered and then certified.
“The foundation seed program in North Dakota is one of the most sought after. We are known as one of the best foundation seed programs in the United States,” Mehlhoff said.
Soil health is always a big concern for researchers at the LREC. Soil Health Specialist Naeem Kalwar explained that the soils of North Dakota are relatively young when compared to other agricultural areas. The soil of the area is also some of the most high quality soil in the world, containing high levels of organic matter.
“These soils were formed under prairie grasses. Prairie grasses left about 1.5 tons of biomass residue above the ground, but they added 4 tons of plant biomass below the ground in the form of roots,” Kalwar explained.
NDSU has been researching soil health and loss for decades. Over the past 50 years, NDSU has found that 7 to 10 inches of topsoil has been lost, leaving producers actually farming the subsoil.
“Where we are now, we need to not only maintain organic matter levels but increase. That increase is obviously slow, but if we don’t start, the organic matter levels will keep going down,” Kalwar stated. Kalwar suggests growing a full season cover crop, where a cover crop is planted like a regular crop and allowed to grow all season developing extensive root systems. By planting the cover crop earlier, producers will gain maximum benefit from the cover crop. A diverse mix of plants will also increase organic matter and engage microbes within the soil improving the overall health.
No field day would be complete without the researchers informing those in attendance of what dangers could be lurking in their fields. Dr. Joe Ikley, the NDSU Weed Scientist Specialist, updated the audience on the current danger of Palmer Amaranth. The extremely competitive pigweed species has been found in North Dakota counties and poses a major threat to the row crops of the state.
“The crop diversity is really helping us avoid, or at least delay, some of the major resistance issues they are facing in other parts of the country,” Ikley stated.
Right now most of the pigweeds in the state will be beginning to flower, making identification of the Palmer Amaranth more easily identifiable. Palmer Amaranth has a very long seed head, up to 3 feet long.
“It’s very easy to ID when we have a long seed head. That’s where all the phone calls last summer started to come in,” Ikley said. Ikley informed the audience that the plant, once identified, should be pulled by hand and burned immediately. Do not transport the plant in anyway.
Lesley Lubenow, NDSU Extension Cropping Systems Specialist at the LREC informed the attendees of the insects that are of most concern at this point in the growing season. Flea beetles have been wreaking havoc with high numbers as many survived the harsh winter thanks to the deep snow cover. Lubenow explained that cover crops can help to alleviate some of the damage caused by the beetles. Currently, Lubenow is researching how much damage a single beetle can cause.
Dr. Venkat Chapara, Assistant Research Professor specializing in plant pathology at the LREC, updated the audience on the clubroot situation. Chapara explained the pathogen is most likely to occur in soils that have a low pH and that brassicas are a susceptible species.
Dr. Andrew Friskop, Assistant Research Professor specializing in plant pathology at NDSU in Fargo, discussed the fungicides that affect small grains like wheat. Friskop went over the two diseases that are affecting wheat, bacterial leaf streak and scab. Friskop reviewed the management recommendations for both and the research that is being conducted to combat these issues.
Anitha Chirumamilla, NDSU Extension Agent for Cavalier County, informed the audience on the wheat stem sawfly, a cousin of the wasp, that utilizes wheat to incubate their larvae and feed them. The larvae feed on the vascular tissue which results in yield losses. As the larvae mature, they move to the base of the stem where they girdle the stem which results in the lodging. Chirumamilla did not have good news to share in terms of eliminating the pest as chemicals are ineffective on the sawfly.
“If you know you have a big infestation of this insect then you know that it is going to happen next year because the insect will survive over the winter in the stubble. What you can do is go for tillage practices that kill the overwintering insect as it crushes the stubble,” Chirumamilla said.
The following year, should the producer plant wheat again, using a solid stem wheat is advised as it is much tougher for the insect to move through the solid stem varieties. Going for a crop rotation is also advised as a way to limit and reduce the infestation.
Jeremiah Halley discussed the outlook for the farm market. There are a few things that are impacting the market not least of which is, of course, trade deals that are being worked on at the federal level. Weather, too, has played havoc on the markets as heavy rains and flooding have changed many plans for crops to be planted. Currently, the USDA will be re-doing the planting survey to determine how much of the planned crops made it into the ground.
“Indemnity payments on prevent plant would total $3.6 billion. The old record was $2.2, so this is pretty widespread and devastating this year,” Halley said.
Yields and expenses for this area are higher on average than in other areas. Halley went over the break-even points for the popular crops of the area.
Ron Beneda gave the outlook on the canola crop for this year, cautioning that black leg is, and will continue to be, the biggest problem for producers.