Project Details:

Title:
Why Do Some Soil Practices Make Fields More Resilient to Saline-Prone Years?

Parent Project: This is the first year of this project.
Checkoff Organization:North Dakota Soybean Council
Categories:Soil fertility, Soil and tillage management
Organization Project Code:QSSB
Project Year:2020
Lead Principal Investigator:Aaron Daigh (North Dakota State University)
Co-Principal Investigators:
Thomas DeSutter (North Dakota State University)
Caley Gasch (North Dakota State University)
Keywords:

Contributing Organizations

Funding Institutions

Information and Results

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Project Summary

Soybean losses on saline soils are common in North Dakota. Although, some soil health practices help to reduce soil salinity, our knowledge is limited on which practices and soil properties build a soils resiliency to future saline-prone years when substantial or consistent rainfalls raise saline water tables. In 2018, persistent rainfalls and high water tables caused salinization of fields near Grand Forks, ND, and substantial soybean losses. However, a previously decommissioned soilhealth research site in the corner of one field sustained healthy soybeans throughout the year when adjacent areas displayed large bare areas with no plant growth. The previous research site has a history of tile drainage, tillage, and cover crop evaluations. During 2018, this decommissioned research site demonstrated remarkable resiliency to soil salinization and prevented crop loss from salinity. This stark observation presents an opportunity for us to evaluate the site's soil health properties and infer why the older research plots prevented crop loss from salinity. This project will evaluate the soil biological community, soil pore structure and architecture, and soil fertility parameters within the southeast corner' s old research site and compare the soil health to other areas within the field with and without severe impact from soil salinity. This evaluation and comparison of soil health indices will aid in understanding what aspects of soil health govern soybean field's resiliency to future soil salinization.

Project Objectives

Research Goals:
1. Determine why some soil management practices build a soil's resiliency to salinization using a case-study site that had stark differences in soybean losses during 2018.
2. Provide recommendations to soybean growers on management practices to help safeguard fields that may be vulnerable to future soil salinization.
Objectives: This project directly addresses the ND Soybean priority topic of soil health. The objectives of this research are to:
1. Identify soil health parameters, associated with biological, structural, and fertility aspects, which are strongly linked to soil management areas that have demonstrated resiliency to soil salinization and soybean loss.
2. Disseminate information to soybean producers at established annual field days and local grower meetings.

Project Deliverables

Progress of Work

Updated December 4, 2019:
Why Do Some Soil Practices Make Fields More Resilient To Saline-Prone Years?

Principal Investigators:
Dr. Aaron Daigh, Assistant Professor of Soil Physics, NDSU Soil Science
Dr. Caley Gasch, Assistant Professor of Soil Health-Research, NDSU Soil Science
Dr. Thomas DeSutter, Professor of Soil Science, NDSU Soil Science

Objectives of the research:
This project’s goals are to 1) determine why some soil management practices build a soil’s resiliency to salinization using a case-study site that had stark differences in soybean losses during 2018, and 2) provide recommendations to soybean growers on management practices to help safeguard fields that may be vulnerable to future soil salinization. The objectives are to identify soil health parameters, associated with biological, structural, and fertility aspects, which are strongly linked to soil management areas that have demonstrated resiliency to soil salinization and soybean loss, and 2) disseminate information to soybean producers at established annual field days and local grower meetings.

Completed work for fiscal year 2019-2020:
Currently, all milestones and objectives are being met based on the original proposed timeline. We have established and georeferenced transects at the field site for soil sampling and soybean health monitoring. All soil samples for biological community structures, fertility, salinity, aggregate stability, and pore structures were obtained after the 2019 harvest and before the winter freeze. These samples are currently undergoing laboratory analyses. The project design and goals were presented in conjunction with other current and previous North Dakota Soybean Council funded projects at the international ASA-CSSA-SSSA conference in San Antonio in November, 2019.

Work to be completed:
Laboratory soil analyses and data analysis will continue throughout the winter and are anticipated to be completed by March. The findings will be disseminated at extension workshops and various spring programs in 2020. Soybean germination and seedling growth rate/survival will be monitored in the spring of 2020. Soybean health will be monitored weekly by measuring plant leaf chlorophyll contents with a SPAD meter, measuring leaf area index with a LP-80 LAI Ceptometer, and measuring stomatal conductance with a SC-1 Leaf Porometer. Additionally, a final project summary and impact statement will be prepared and made available to the public.

Final Project Results

Updated June 27, 2020:

View uploaded report Word file

Salinization severely affected a soybean production field near Grand Forks, ND in 2018 due to a persistently high water table. Most of the field had substantial crop loss, whereas the southeast corner sustained healthy soybean growth. This corner with healthy soybeans marked the location of a previous research project that was managed with cover crops, no-tillage and tile drainage that had been decommissioned three years prior. This stark observation presented an opportunity for us to better understand what aspects of soil health and management prior management practices govern resiliency to future soil salinization. This is a great importance for soybean, since they are sensitive to soil salinity.

This project’s goals and objectives were to:
1) Determine why some soil management practices build a soil’s resiliency to salinization using this field as a case-study.
2) Identify soil health parameters linked to soil management areas demonstrating notable resiliency to soil salinization and soybean loss.
3) Use these data to inform recommendations to soybean growers with fields vulnerable to soil salinization.

Soil samples were obtained along transects in 2019 that extended from areas of dead, damaged, or dying plants into areas with living and thriving plants. Transects were placed in various locations that reflected current and prior soil management practices including tillage, cover crops, and subsurface drainage. Soil samples were then evaluated for their fertility, aggregation, and biological communities.

None of the measured soil properties appears to provide adequate information to infer if a soil may be prone to salinization. The outcome of salinization was clearly observed at this site with distinct boundaries (within a few inches) between areas with dead plants as compared to areas with living plants. Visually, soil management zones provided stark evidence that the combination of no-till and subsurface drainage made a positive difference in salinization and crop survival. However, areas with the same or contrasting management histories had the same trends in soil properties. We recommend that producers focus management efforts on soil processes, such as residue cover to limit evaporation and subsurface drainage to maintain lower water tables, as opposed to targeting preexisting soil health properties. This case study demonstrates that the combination of no-till with subsurface drainage can provide crop protection from salinization due to shallow saline water tables.

Results and project updates were presented at the Dakota Innovation Research Technology (DIRT) Workshop, Conservation Tillage Conference, and the international ASA-CSSA-SSSA conference in the winter of 2019-2020.

Benefit to Soybean Farmers

This research will benefit ND soybean farmers by providing information to producers on which soil health parameters aid in limiting soil salinization in future years. Producers will then be able to align their soil management practices to safeguard their soybean yields in fields that may be prone to future salinization.

Performance Metrics

Project Years