BROOKINGS, S.D. — The Natural Resource Conservation Service has awarded a Conservation Collaboration Grant to South Dakota State University and The Nature Conservancy for a water quantity risk research project to take place in southeastern South Dakota.

A coalition of outreach and research professionals from SDSU and The Nature Conservancy proposed the project to address the critical need for implementing soil health and edge-of-field practices to mitigate water quantity risk at the field and watershed scale. The research, titled “Roadmap to Water Resilience — Valuing Water as a Resource for Improved Ag Land Profitability and Reduction of Downstream Flood Risk,” will serve as a proving ground to develop a roadmap for the optimal targeting and application of these practices in other watersheds across South Dakota and the Midwest. The $887,687 grant will enable the research team to obtain these goals.

NRCS CCG proposals must address some of South Dakota’s prominent natural resource concerns. An emphasis has been placed on project proposals that build the capacity of local watershed groups with development and implementation of effective projects, which the SDSU and The Nature Conservancy project proposal accomplishes.

John McMaine, assistant professor in the department of agricultural and biosystems engineering and SDSU Extension water management engineer, serves as the principal investigator for the project.

“There is evidence that soil health and other conservation practices can improve water management at the field scale during both dry and wet times,” McMaine said. “This research will measure impact of conservation practices on water risk (too much or too little) at the field level, which translates to improved yield, profit and resilience for the farmer.”

The research will also measure the impact at the watershed scale, which could significantly reduce flood risk downstream. The team hopes to quantify how conservation practices can reduce soil moisture risk by preserving a little more of that early season moisture for the dry summer months, which should translate to a yield bump.

“Our methods in this research will hopefully provide farmers with a dollar value of conservation practices because of the improved water management that those practices provide,” McMaine said.

To carry out the project, the Willow Creek watershed, located northwest of Sioux Falls, S.D., was selected as the research location. The watershed’s size, which amounts to about 30,000 acres, makes it small enough that improvements could be measured if widespread implementation is achieved. In addition, the area has seen significant efforts and investment in research and conservation, providing a solid foundation of collaboration to build this project. The project will monitor soil moisture in approximately 30 fields in the watershed, along with meteorological data, economic variables and social science survey data.

The three main components that will accomplish the goal of the research include:

  • Analyzing and demonstrating how watershed modeling can help plan, target and predict environmental and agricultural benefits of practice implementation.
  • Field-scale monitoring and watershed scale modeling for demonstration of landscape performance in dealing with water quantity issues and validation of modeling accuracy.
  • Determining barriers and drivers for producer adoption to improve the environmental and economic performance of working agricultural lands through social and economic analyses.

In addition to team members from SDSU and The Nature Conservancy, collaborators from South Dakota Corn, South Dakota Soil Health Coalition, Minnehaha Conservation District, Minnehaha County Farm Bureau, South Dakota Farm Bureau and Friends of the Big Sioux River will provide value to the project’s goals.

The first stage of the project will include reaching out to farmers in the watershed, followed by evaluation of available tools this winter and installation of field monitoring equipment in spring 2021. The project commenced on Sept. 1, 2020, and is scheduled to conclude in August 2023.

“A lot of investment goes into conservation, and it can sometimes be random acts of conservation rather than an optimal investment system that can actually achieve watershed objectives,” McMaine said. “What we hope to do here is to pilot methods to optimize that investment.”

SOURCE: Aberdeen News


Conservation Blueprint, an organization that offers a wide range of mixes and services to those wanting to plan, create, and maintain helpful wildlife and pollinator habitats, recently released a video that explains how agricultural land and pollinator habitats impact each other and can work together.

To learn more about wildlife and pollinator habitats and send an inquiry about your own project, visit Conservation Blueprint’s website.

SOURCE: The NACD Resource

Fran Fritz, Iroquois, SD

“The cows head right straight to the water tank when they want fresh water. That’s the cheapest, easiest nutrient you can give cattle, fresh water. But it’s expensive sometimes to get, but it’s worth it.” – Fran Fritz

The SD Grassland Coalition partnered with a variety of organizations to enhance the Grassland Planner with a release of a short video story each month during 2020, promoting healthy soils, grasslands and ecosystems. 

2020 Grassland Stewardship Communications Project Partners: SD Grassland Coalition, Audubon Dakota, Ducks Unlimited, Partners for Fish and Wildlife, SD Game, Fish and Parks, The Nature Conservancy, Pheasants Forever, SD Soil Health Coalition, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and South Dakota State University


Last week, MTN DEW launched its MTN DEW Outdoor Grants Program, which invites organizations focused on wildlife conservation, environmental causes, or outdoor recreation to apply for the chance to win $5,000.

The program will award 20 outdoor-related nonprofits who apply by October 25, 2020. Winners will be announced by December 1, 2020.

To learn more, visit MTN DEW’s website.

The Misar Family, Scotland, SD

“In addition to farming, I also work at Bon Homme High School. I am their ag instructor and FFA advisor. It’s a really neat opportunity to have that kind of a job because it really coincides with what I do on the farm, and it really gives me an opportunity to teach students about things I am passionate about in my life.” — Mark Misar

This Profile in Soil Health follows the Mark and Elisa Misar Family, who raise Shorthorn cattle and grow corn, soybeans, oats, and wheat near Scotland, SD. They have worked to improve the soil in their diverse operation by using no-till practices, incorporating both full-season and post-harvest cover crops, and grazing livestock on crop land. These practices help them control runoff and erosion, survive extreme weather events, and improve the productivity of their farm. Mark is also an agriculture instructor and FFA advisor for Bon Homme High School, and he shares his operation’s soil health practices with his students so they can learn sustainable ways to improve profitability and soil health.

SOURCE: South Dakota Soil Health Coalition


Farm Journal is seeking nominations for the Executive Women in Agriculture (EWA) Trailblazer Award, which is given to a female producer who is a shining example for her peers.

The winner will be an advocate for agriculture and represent an innovative farming or ranching operation. Entrants are judged on agricultural advocacy, farm business innovation and industry, or community leadership.

Applications can be downloaded and filled out at Farm Journal’s website. Submissions are due Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020.

Prizes include:

  • a trip for two to attend the Executive Women in Agriculture Conference in Chicago (Jan. 28-30, 2021)
  • Leadership, business or succession planning consulting sessions with Rena Striegel, Transition Point Business Advisors 

Questions? Contact Sara Schafer at 573-581-6387 or email


It’s what cattle and crop producers don’t spend that makes the biggest difference

Edmunds County farmer Dennis Hoyle attributes any profits he sees today to what he doesn’t spend, thanks to the many soil health practices he implements. (Courtesy of SD Soil Health Coalition)

PIERRE, S.D. — In times like these, it’s what cattle and crop producers don’t spend that makes the biggest difference to their bottom line.

“Because prices are not very good right now, there isn’t a lot a farmer or rancher can do to get more in the market, so they are looking to cut expenses,” Dacotah Bank Agricultural Banker Trevor Samson explained.

Nick Jorgensen agrees. Implementing soil health practices are how the Ideal, SD, cattle and crop producer and his dad, Bryan, cut input costs across their operation.

Neuharth Family, Fort Pierre, SD

“I think my dad’s motivation to start all of this was to make better what he had, to make it work for you without having to go out and be a great big farm, to grow quality crops to be able to market, and to have the land here for our future generations. That’s one of my big goals, to have it here not only for my children, but my children’s children.” — Levi Neuharth

This Profile in Soil Health follows the journey of the Neuharth Family as they have worked to build soil health and increase diversity in the plants they grow and the animals they raise near Fort Pierre, SD. Levi Neuharth’s father, David, began by transitioning the farm to no-till, and the family has since worked together to increase diversity in their crop rotation, plant full season and after harvest cover crops, integrate livestock onto cropland, as well as to utilize various grazing management practices. With an overarching goal of preserving and enhancing the land for the future, all generations continue to learn and work together to increase the diversity and health of the entire operation.

Visit to view already released videos!


The 2021 tree order form is ready to go, just waiting for you to complete and return! Take a look around your place and put your wish list together. Please note that the orders are due by March 3, 2021. If you have any questions, feel free to call us at 605-330-4515 ext 3 or email us!


Here’s the latest edition of Soil Visions, the Soil Health Coalition’s newsletter! If you’re interested in learning more about specific topics, contact the Soil Health Coalition with your soil health questions and/or visit the technical resource pages of their website.


Farmers who make soil health a priority are more likely to rotate three or more crops and to graze livestock on cropland, according to a survey of producers in South Dakota, North Dakota and Nebraska.

Newswise — Farmers who make soil health a priority are more likely to rotate three or more crops and to graze livestock on cropland, according to a survey of producers in South Dakota, North Dakota and Nebraska.

The survey examined why some agricultural producers prioritize soil health and how to encourage more producers to adopt these conservation practices, according to assistant professor Tong Wang of South Dakota State University’s Ness School of Management and Economics. This is the first study addressing what motivates Northern Great Plains producers to adopt these practices.

The research is part of a four-year, nearly $4 million U.S. Department of Agriculture project that seeks to evaluate the impact of an integrated crop and livestock management system that involves using cover crops, such as oats, for grazing as part of the crop rotation plan. The National Institute of Food and Agriculture project, which involves 26 scientists from five universities, is led by associate professor Sandeep Kumar of SDSU’s Department of Agronomy, Horticulture and Plant Science.

SOURCE: Newswise


An excavation project in farmer David Kruger’s field revealed that almost all of the topsoil had eroded from the top of a low ridge down a relatively gentle 7% slope. If not for Kruger’s good soil health practices, the problem could have been worse.

As a kid, Twin Brooks farmer David Kruger watched his grandfather fight erosion using a very hands-on method.

“I remember him going to the ditch along Highway 12 and hauling the dirt out of the ditch and back onto the field with a loader,” Kruger said.

That was a powerful memory, but Kruger wasn’t thinking about erosion when he first learned about no-till farming practices years later as a student at Lake Area Technical Institute, now named Lake Area Technical College.

Instead, he was thinking about moisture and long days of picking rocks.

SOURCE: South Dakota Soil Health Coalition


Just a reminder that our offices will be closed on Monday, September 7, in recognition of Labor Day.

On this day, we especially want to thank all those who work hard to ensure that conservation practices are implemented!

Dean and Candice Lockner, Ree Heights, SD

Healthy agricultural lands are important for wildlife

Dean and Candice Lockner of Ree Heights, SD, notice increased wildlife presence on their lands after planting some fields back to grasses and improving their soil.

This short video will be broadcast by various South Dakota television stations in the first two weeks of September.


Pollinators like bees, birds and bats can do so much for ecosystems and benefit people. Imagine a world without any pollinators! No bumblebees or hummingbirds or even wasps to carry pollen from one plant to the next. While we may not notice their hard work, we would certainly notice it if they were gone. Without pollinators, we would also have a hard time meeting the demand for food around the world.

This is why teaching youth about the importance of pollinators and how to protect them is crucial. Educators and parents who are looking for fun and hands-on ways to engage students in pollinator activities can access our Pollinator Field Day Curriculum Guide. This K-8 curriculum provides a variety of resources for you to explain the connection between pollinators, plants, and people. With the pollinator guide, students will learn about the importance of pollinators and plants, as well as have access to pollinator activities that can be done right in the classroom or at home. Browse through the multiple pollinator lessons and stations, crossword puzzles and challenge spelling, coloring pages and much more.
The guide is an excellent resource and can be downloaded for free as a PDF, both in color and in black and white. NACD also provides both English and Spanish translations from the NACD Conservation Education Hub.

In addition, the Richland County and the Richland Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) in South Carolina recently released a great educational video called “What’s Blooming?,” featuring three of their pollinator demonstration garden’s plant species: lemon bee balm, blanket flower and clasping coneflower. This is another video from their “Watch & Learn” video series, which can be found on Richland SWCD’s website.


Conservation Clips is a weekly collection of articles distributed by the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) that provides our members and partners with the latest news in what’s driving conservation. These articles are not indicative of NACD policy and are the opinions of their authors, unless otherwise noted. If you have a relevant submission or need assistance with accessing articles, please contact the NACD Communications Team.

NACD Blog: The National Wild Turkey Federation, COVID-19 and Beyond
By Matt Lindler

With more than 47 years as a leader in wildlife conservation, science-based wildlife and habitat management, and an advocate for hunters’ rights, the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) is a respected voice in the conservation community throughout the United States.

SARE: National Farmer Survey Documents a Wide Range of Cover Crop Benefits as Acreage Continues to Expand

Despite the crippling rainfall that significantly delayed planting across much of the country in 2019, more than 90 percent of farmers participating in a national cover crop survey reported that cover crops allowed them to plant earlier or at the same time as non-cover-cropped fields. Among those who had “planted green,” seeding cash crops into growing cover crops, 54 percent said the practice helped them plant earlier than on other fields.

KRCG: Iowa farmers, agriculture industry in ‘uncharted territory’ with derecho recovery
By Mary Green

Iowa’s agriculture secretary said the state’s farmers and agricultural industry are in “unchartered territory” in storm recovery, and they might not know the full extent of derecho damage until the harvest next month.

Hoosier Ag Today: NRCS Invests $650,000 to Improve Water Quality in Indiana

Indiana State Conservationist Jerry Raynor is pleased to announce that USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will invest over $650,000 in new projects this year targeting high priority watersheds throughout the state.

The FERN: Can grazing save endangered grasslands?
By Lynne Curry

An alliance of scientists and ranchers is working to prove that cattle grazing can stave off development, support ranch economies and preserve biodiversity on a treasured Oregon prairie.

The Guardian: Extreme weather just devastated 10m acres in the midwest. Expect more of this
By Art Cullen

(Opinion) Unless we contain carbon, our food supply will be under threat. By 2050, U.S. corn yields could decline by 30 percent.

NPR: Farming Releases Carbon From The Earth’s Soil Into The Air. Can We Put It Back?
By Brent Baughman, Emily Kwong and Geoff Brumfiel

Traditional farming depletes the soil and releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. But decades ago, a scientist named Rattan Lal helped start a movement based on the idea that carbon could be put back into the soil — a practice known today as “regenerative agriculture.”

Star Tribune: On Minnesota farm, experiment could change how farmers get costly nitrogen
By Adam Belz

Researchers at the University of Minnesota have built small-scale prototypes of machines that can make nitrogen fertilizer out of air and water. Kennedy Research, an ag startup in Murdock, Minn., is negotiating with university officials for a licensing agreement to build a larger prototype that it could sell to farmers.

Sustainable Brands: Strengthening Collaboration Between Farmers and Landowners Key to Improving Conservation
By Amy Roady

The relationship between non-operating landowners, which own 62 percent of Midwest farmland, and the farmers to whom they rent land is vital to achieving wide-scale adoption of soil-health and nutrient-management practices across U.S. croplands.

Civil Eats: Perennial Vegetables Are a Solution in the Fight Against Hunger and Climate Change
By Virginia Gewin

Perennial agriculture—including agroforestry, silvopasture, and the development of perennial row crops such as Kernza—has come to prominence in recent years as an important part of the fights against soil erosion and climate change. Not only do perennial plants develop longer, more stabilizing roots than annual crops, but they’ve also been shown to be key to sequestering carbon in the soil.

Albuquerque Journal: Planning for New Mexico’s water future
By Theresa Davis

Key to a long-term plan is acknowledging that future water supplies may be unreliable in the face of climate change, said David Gutzler, a climate scientist and professor in the University of New Mexico’s Earth and Planetary Sciences Department.

Science Daily: Cover crop mixtures must be ‘farm-tuned’ to provide maximum ecosystem services

Researchers, in a recent study, were surprised to learn that they could take the exact same number of seeds from the same plants, put them in agricultural fields across the Mid-Atlantic region and get profoundly different stands of cover crops a few months later.

Scientific American: California Looks to Battle Mega Wildfires with Fire
By Jane Braxton

The effort marks a milestone in California’s pivot away from a century of suppressing fire at all costs and toward working with it instead—using controlled flames to restore ecosystems that evolved to burn in frequent, mostly low-intensity blazes. Plants take in less carbon in a warming world
By Dominic Jarvis

As world temperatures rise, the rate at which plants in certain regions can absorb carbon dioxide is declining, according to University of Queensland research.


Get ready for the new school year with National Association of Conservation District’s (NACD) 2021 Stewardship and Education materials, celebrating the theme “Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities.” With trees and forests around the world under threat, having environmentally literate and conservation-minded kids is more important than ever. NACD’s materials provide the needed information to teach and promote tree and forest conservation at home and in the classroom.

The materials can be downloaded for free through NACD’s Conservation Education Hub or Marketplace, and they can be printed and purchased locally or on-demand through Goetz Printing.


How cool is this?! Some visitors at the Gevik Learning Area shared with us their pictures of the moon rising! Thank you, Mary Dearborn and friends!

If you like to get out in nature, the Gevik Learning Area is the place to go! There are walking trails with interpretive signs to explain what you’re seeing. If you’d like more detailed information that coordinates with the signs, or want to make this a family education opportunity, please print our Walking Trail Guide before you go. The guide can also be viewed on your phone as you walk, but sometimes the writing gets pretty small.

The Gevik Learning Area is 1/2 mile west of Wall Lake, or 1/4 mile north of the intersection of 266th Street and 462nd Avenue, about eight miles west of Sioux Falls.

We hope you enjoy your time there! Please remember to keep your furry friends on a leash. The critters who live at the Gevik site appreciate your cooperation!


Conservation Blueprint’s Peter Berthelsen explains how to create a PVC “Kill Stick” to help you manage invasive tree species in this Habitat Tip.

To learn more about wildlife and pollinator habitats, see more great tips, or send an inquiry about your own project, visit


The Board has decided to postpone the August meeting.  The next Minnehaha Conservation Board meeting will be held on Monday, September 14th at 3:00 p.m. at the Gevik Learning Center.

Please update your calendars accordingly. Thanks!