Pine Bluffs Post - Serving all of Eastern Laramie County since 1908

No Till Notes: Dakota Lakes


Dakota Lakes Research Farm is located 16 miles east of Pierre, S.D. On our tour, we had the privilege of spending a morning with Dr. Dwayne Beck, who operates the farm. If you aren’t familiar with Beck, he has devoted his career to educating producers about the many benefits of no-till crop production.

I’ve known Dwayne for more than 20 years and have traveled with him and attended numerous no-till crop production meetings with him. Dwayne has spoken several times at our Panhandle No-till Partnership winter conference.

He is always willing to give his time to educate producers about no-till crop production. He has a wealth of knowledge on no-till crop production and is passionate about delivering his message to regional and worldwide agricultural producers and researchers.

We began our tour in the workshop where Beck explained the goal of the Dakota Lakes Research Farm to have a zero-carbon footprint by the year 2026. The goal of the farm is to produce its own energy needs with biofuels produced on the farm. Any high energy inputs, such as fertilizer, will also be offset by the farms ability to supply its own energy. This is a lofty goal that will be interesting to watch over time to see if the farm is able to become truly a zero-carbon footprint operation.

We began the farm tour by looking at the irrigated portion of the farm. Beck took along a shovel with him to show us the soil health benefits of no-till crop production. This is the first time I’ve ever seen Dwayne bring a shovel to the field. I asked one of Dwayne’s long time technicians who works on the farm and he confirmed it. We may have witnessed the first tillage performed at the Dakota Lakes Research Farm in more than two decades.

Beck started in a corn field and partially dug up a corn plant. He then proceeded to pull the plant from the soil with his bare hands. The result was a corn plant with numerous roots hanging from the root ball that were 3-4 feet long.

Beck pointed out that these roots pulled easily from the soil because they had moved through the soil in the macropores developed through long term no-till cropping practices.

He also pointed out that the root ball had grown predominately horizontally in this long term no-till soil.

We found the seed that had been planted to produce this corn plant and there were no roots formed below the seed, these roots all extended horizontally from the seed before moving down into the soil. Beck explained that a fertilizer placement to the side of the seed below the soil surface was a good place to put starter fertilizer.

We moved on to a field of winter wheat stubble where a cover crop had been seeded following winter wheat harvest. The linear irrigation system was being run for us to show the ability of the macro pores in the soil structure to move irrigation water from the soil surface deep into the soil.

The farm had received .6 of an inch of rain prior to our arrival. The irrigation system was set to apply another 1.5 inches of irrigation in a five-minute time period. The water did not pond on the soil surface but moved directly into the soil. This superior water infiltration can only be achieved through the incorporation of long term no-till production practices.

Long term no-till production practices develop the soil structure with macro pores throughout the soil that allows water to infiltrate at a rapid rate below the soil surface. In our environment with high soil moisture evaporation rates, it’s critical to be able to move the water deep into the soil profile where it is protected from our high soil moisture evaporation rates.

Next week, I’ll visit with you about the dry land portion of the Dakota Lakes Research Farm.


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