DU gives producers options for water issues

Dakotas landowners challenged by too much moisture

Ducks Unlimited measures soil moisture for producers in the Dakotas.

Ducks Unlimited measures soil moisture for producers in the Dakotas.

Over the last few years, farmers and ranchers in the Dakotas have been challenged by too much moisture. Producers can’t get in the field to harvest, and they can’t plant new crops. Ducks Unlimited is helping agriculture find conservation answers to these problems in the Prairie Pothole Region, where most land is privately owned. DU connects landowners to programs that help deal with excess water and protect wetlands in areas that have the greatest conservation benefit to waterfowl.

Conservation staff work with producers to identify habitat and land-use goals, and then develop management plans. Ducks Unlimited biologists and agronomists also provide technical and financial assistance to help producers achieve their plans. Many management plans include rotational livestock grazing as properly grazed cattle can improve the health of the entire ecosystem.

“Any time we can promote grazing or the ranching industry and maintain cattle on the landscape, we’re keeping grasslands, wetlands and greater plant and wildlife diversity on the landscape, which is a win for ducks,” said Randy Meidinger, DU biologist in South Dakota.

DU agronomists help landowners identify problematic soils with soil-monitoring services. These analyses identify the potential to improve crop productivity and ecosystem services through increasing the soil’s health.

“Soil health monitoring provides compelling baseline data on cropland soils, providing an excellent opportunity to develop site-specific crop management plans and cover crop mixes to maximize benefit,” said Brad Schmidt, regional agronomist for DU in South Dakota. “When we tie those benefits to net profit gains, we are likely to see long-term continued use.”

DU and its partners also provide workshops, field events and bus tours educating private landowners about land-use alternatives.