HURON, South Dakota Sept. 6, 2016 Ducks Unlimited is partnering with the Beadle Conservation District in South Dakota to promote cover crops and support conservation on agricultural lands in Beadle County.

DU recently acquired a special grass drill, called an InterSeeder, from local farmers Joe Fritzsche and Jeff Kelsey, with the help of a generous gift from First National Bank of Omaha. The grass drill will be given to the Beadle Conservation District and used by the District to promote and seed cover crops in the area.

Cover crops are a relatively new concept around here, said Robin Viestenz, Beadle Conservation District manager. Cover crops are used for a variety of purposes, including improving soil health, adding nitrogen to the soil, reducing compaction and providing additional grazing opportunities.

Fritzsche and Kelsey bought the drill a couple years ago and are such believers in cover crops they decided they needed to build a bigger one to seed more acres, which made their current InterSeeder available for this unique partnership. According to Jason Schley, a local farmer and crop consultant, June is the best time to use an InterSeeder because you can plant cover crops between rows of growing corn.

It runs against conventional wisdom that you had to keep cornfields clean of any competition, Schley said. We are finding you can successfully plant cover crops and gain the benefits without hurting corn production by seeding at that time of year.

Schley said cover crops have the potential to provide economic returns to landowners by improving water infiltration, reducing soil temperatures during the hot summer months, and converting organic nutrients into inorganic nutrients that will help reduce fertilizer costs.

Published research shows potential yield gains of up to seven bushels per acre in soybeans the year following an interseeded cover crop in corn, he said.

Steve Donovan, DUs South Dakota manager of conservation programs, says Ducks Unlimited is excited about the conservation benefits cover crops provide to water quality and soil health, but he says there is another possible benefit that is even more intriguing.

In certain situations, cover crops might also provide suitable nesting cover for ducks and other ground nesting birds, Donovan said. We have long considered corn and soybean fields as not providing suitable habitat for nesting birds because they lack any cover during the critical early nesting season under more traditional farming methods. But if corn and soybeans are planted into standing cover, ducks and other species like ring-necked pheasants might find it to be suitable nesting cover.

Last spring, Ducks Unlimited personnel searched a few local cover crop fields and found ducks nesting in every one. Based on that initial look, Ducks Unlimited is planning to implement a full research project in 2017 with the assistance of South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks and South Dakota State University. Cover crops will be searched for nesting ducks and other species and monitored for success.

We are excited about this work. Millions of South Dakota acres are planted to corn and soybeans each year, Donovan added. If we can figure out how to farm corn and soybeans in a way that might be friendlier to nesting birds, it could be a boon to wildlife.

Area producers interested in this program and using the InterSeeder should call Viestenz at (605) 352-2998.

Ducks Unlimited Inc. is the world's largest nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving North America's continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 13.8 million acres thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever. For more information on our work, visit

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