Soil Acidity Study Seeks North Dakota Producers With Acidic Soil

The Dickinson Research Extension Center (DREC) is performing soil acidity studies on land throughout North Dakota. 

Chris Augustin, North Dakota State University's Dickinson Research Extension Center director and soil scientist, is leading the project. 

"Soil acidity is a big soil health issue that has come to the forefront in the past 4-5 years, and we are trying to figure out how much lime is needed to remediate these soils."

Augustin and DREC staff performs the soil acidity study on small sections of farmer's fields. 

Once producers have seeded an acidic field, the staff comes out to the field and places hoola hoops out and collects soil samples outside of the hoop and applies varying amounts of lime to the inside of the hoop.  

When the crop is ready to be harvested, the research crew goes back out to the field to hand harvest the hoola hoop section. 

"At some point around October to November, the following fall, we go back out and sample soil within the hoop to see what the lime did to that soil," added Augustin. 

Last year, the team performed the experiment with 0, 2, 4, 8, and 16 tons of lime per acre. 

They worked with 11 producers across the western half of North Dakota. 

Performing the study on a variety of environments allows the team to account for a huge variable of soils and climate.

"I am actually analyzing 1,200 soil samples that we have been doing research trials on for the past year," he added. 

They will be doing the study a little differently this year, applying 0, 0.5, 1, 2, 4, and 8 tons of lime per acre. 

"We are doing this to account for some of those lower application rates. What we are seeing is a pretty good response with how much is applied and how that affects soil pH." 

For this year's study, they are in the process of finding North Dakota producers that will welcome the study onto their acidic fields. 

"We are reaching out and pitching this project to farmers; we have a handful of sites lined up but are looking for more."

Participating farmers must have a field with pH less than 5.5.

"This year, we are looking for more producers. We want to be out in the selected fields right after that crop is planted to collect soil samples and to see what happens to that pH over the course of a growing season."

Augustin says his favorite part of the project is visiting growers' operations. 

"I really enjoy meeting farmers and learning about their operation and how they do things. Also having those ah-ha moments discovering new things and having the science to help farmers," he said. "I enjoyed science fair growing up and those ah-ha moments when you learn stuff is something I still really enjoy."

If you are a North Dakota producer and have a site with pH less than 5.5, give the Dickinson Research Center a call. 


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