DICKINSON, N.D. - A five-year study yielded big results for NDSU scientists.
"I'm not sure if we can solve the world's problems by taking the CO2 out of the air and putting the organic matter in the soil. But I do know one thing is that if we can increase organic matter, we can increase the productivity of our soil. Even on soils that are marginally productive," says Dr. Larry Cihacek, soil scientist.
Scientists found that increasing organic matter, or decomposed plant and animal residue, would improve soil health and fertility.
They relayed this and other practices to farmers at a Beef Cattle and Forage Field Day.
"If we would allow this soil to do its job, what it's capable of doing, we will find that it will be quite a servant for us as producers, and it will help us when it comes to that bottom line in dollars and cents," says Doug Landblom, DREC Beef Cattle Specialist.
NDSU scientists found that crop diversity also helps enhance soil health and productivity.
"So when you take into account that we applied no nitrogen in those crops, and yet the turnover took place, and the CO nutrient cycling was very much at work, by the fifth year we got a 35 percent increase in yield," says Landblom.
A major part of the study was building crop and livestock diversity with cover crops and beef cattle grazing.
"The cow can be put to good use, and hopefully, make us some money too as producers in the overall system. So we're talking closing the loop on the system, and using the cow to do this," says Fara Brummer, CGREC Area Extension Livestock Specialist.
A result of the study found that labor was reduced when animals replaced machines.