March 25, 2015

Through many changes, a few things remain the same

By Annette Tait
A familiar face around Oliver County will soon be moving on to new adventures. Natural Resources Conservation Service District Conservationist Dave Pfliiger begins his new responsibilities for the NRCS in Burleigh County April 6.
Pfliiger wasn’t seeking to leave Oliver County, where he’s developed friendships and relationships with landowners and residents in the city and county alike.
“After so many years, there’s an expectation to apply for other positions, and I was selected,” Pfliiger said. “You don’t stop to appreciate where you’re at until you look at a change.
“I’ve grown quite a bit here in Oliver County, and I owe a great deal of that to the conservation partnership here, the people I work with, and the farmers and ranchers.”
During his years in Oliver County, Pfliiger has seen a number of changes. Corn acreage has increased sharply from 1,600 acres when he first started in 1996 to 20,000 acres in 2012, and soybeans have skyrocketed from 100 acres to more than 11,000.
“This is primarily due to no till cropping systems that supply the extra water needed to produce a big bushel yielding crop, as well as plant genetics and herbicide evolution,” Pfliiger said. “Adding diversity to the crop rotation is good for the soil and breaks disease and pest cycles.
“No additional cost for nitrogen application -- plus a nitrogen credit of at least 40 pounds for next year for pulse crop [field pea, lentil, and dry bean] growers -- is a bonus.”
Pfliiger has also been excited to see cover crops taking off in the county. The NRCS partnered with the Oliver Soil Conservation District and Extension Agent Rick Schmidt to develop a field demonstration site.
“That site, along with a high degree of information and education products – tours, producer meetings, and newsletter articles – has led to increased acres being applied,” Pfliiger said. “Reducing commercial [fertilizer] inputs, and using diversity, no till, and cover crops, will be a big dot on the ag timeline, just like the steel plow, commercial fertilizers, and chemicals have been in the past.”
In recent years there has also been a shift in how the industry looks at soil. Pfliiger noted that there is now an understanding that soil biology drives everything in production agriculture.
“In ‘96, we were all focused on what was above the ground,” Pfliiger said. “The soil scientists were looking below, but they were looking at physical things, the chemistry set that exists below ground.”

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