April 22, 2015

Making the most of available moisture: Get growing, even in dry conditions

By Annette Tait
Temperatures may be a hot topic in North Dakota, but rainfall measurements – high or low – get far more attention, especially during the growing season. Whether the talk is among agriculture producers or home gardeners, water is vital to producing a crop.
“The fundamental difference between gardening and farming, when you start peeling back the layers, is scale,” Natural Resources Conservation Service District Conservationist Dave Pfliiger told his audience at the recent Oliver Soil Conservation District’s Ladies’ Ag Night. “Gardeners, farmers, ranchers – you probably have more in common that what you might think.”
No matter what scale crops are grown on, by the acre or in a few rows in a home garden, all need moisture to grow. During his presentation, Pfliiger worked to demonstrate that, in both cases, the quantity of water is not nearly as important as managing water as a resource.
“Water is the most limiting factor in growing crops, raising livestock, and in farming in North Dakota,” he said, looking to his audience for affirmation, which was evident in the smiles and nodding heads. “Now let’s poke around at that statement.”
Pfliiger used several visuals to demonstrate how even having adequate rainfall may not help if the soil doesn’t capture the moisture that’s available. First, he demonstrated a slake test for aggregate stability by carefully placing two soil samples so they were suspended on widely spaced mesh inside gallon jugs of water. The samples were taken in Grant County, with one representing conventional tillage practices and the other a dozen or so years of no-till soil practices.

The Weather Network