Experts, farmers say healthy land management can prevent dangerous dust storms, unhealthy erosion – Mitchell Republic

REE HEIGHTS, S.D. — Dust storms have been creating headlines throughout the western United States more than the past month, including here in South Dakota. Blowing soil has designed driving hazards due to minimal visibility, and accrued wind-blown silt has even pressured boat ramp closures close to Fort Pierre.

“The dust storms of the earlier handful of months, I’ve never found them this bad,” stated Nathan Jones, a point out soil scientist with the Normal Methods Conservation Services. “The street to my household — I are living off gravel — it was even blacked out by dust currently being blown throughout the highway.”

It could be tempting to blame the dust storms on substantial winds, but as Jones explained, “The wind never ever stops in South Dakota.”

The real issue, he mentioned, is how persons are handling their land.

“The most significant trouble is individuals leaving their ground uncovered,” Jones explained. “If we seem at a ton of the native array in western South Dakota, you will find generally grass. There’s constantly a little something covering the soil surface area. So, when a little something transpires and the soil is still left uncovered, it blows, and the soils in western South Dakota, particularly, are kind of fragile, and when they’re mismanaged, they blow and erode actually, actually bad.”

Soil can be exposed through tillage or currently being remaining uncovered by crop residue or include crops right after harvest. In livestock functions, overgrazing is also a issue.

“Eventually, you get rid of your fantastic indigenous range vegetation, the things which is tasty to the animals. You get into a bare floor circumstance,” Jones said.

No matter the purpose, when the soil is uncovered to wind or rain, it’s vulnerable to erosion. Even land managed with no-till practices can erode if it is left uncovered.

“We experienced crop floor right following to us — neighbors — and they were being applying a no-until operation, and they were being owning dust storms,” claimed Dean Lockner, who runs a tailor made grazing procedure near Ree Heights with his wife, Candice. “They were being undertaking no-until, and then that fall they turned the cows in, and they grazed it down to the grime, and then they puzzled why the land blew. These people mentioned, ‘Well, we were being executing no-till,’ and they experienced cattle on the land, but the land was barren. It was bare dirt. The cattle experienced eaten everything off of it that was there to hold it.”


This soil around Fort Pierre has been eliminated by the wind from fields and piled together fences. Those people fields are shedding their most fertile soil, and the blown filth minimizes the fence’s efficiency.

Picture courtesy of USDA-NRCS South Dakota

These dust storms pose many difficulties for South Dakota ag functions and their encompassing communities.

“Well naturally, we are dropping topsoil,” Jones mentioned. “We converse about water as our most limiting issue as much as developing stuff in South Dakota, but if we drop our topsoil then we never have the nutrient-loaded component of the soil surface area for plants to develop in, and then we are still left expanding in subsoil where by there are much less vitamins and minerals, wherever it really is just tougher for vegetation to survive and thrive.”

Dust storms also maximize the threat of car or truck mishaps.

“A couple many years ago, we experienced a place on Freeway 14 among Highmore and Miller exactly where the highway was blacked out, essentially, because of to a dust storm, and there was a website traffic accident brought about by that,” Jones said.

Jones also described that air high quality is an problem.

“I consider far more and additional we’re functioning into people today who have bronchial asthma or some type of respiration challenges,” he claimed. “If you have planted crops and you’ve fertilized, then now you have fertilizer-tainted soil blowing as a result of the air that you’re respiration into your system, and that is under no circumstances a excellent matter.”


This cereal rye go over crop around Colome was planted after previous year’s oat harvest. It is preserving the soil from erosion, and its roots are feeding soil microbes. It will go on to mature, and soybeans will be planted into it this summer. Just after it is terminated, its residue will management weeds, defend the soil area, and incorporate carbon to the soil as it breaks down.

Photo courtesy of Van Mansheim

Land management remedies

The very good information is that land can be managed to lower erosion.

“I used to have about 1,500 acres of crop floor, and we utilized to farm it, and we are at the foothills,” Dean said. “I was seeing a lot of soil erosion coming out of the Ree Hills on crop floor. I failed to like it, and when the ranch came beneath my management, I made the decision I required to accurate that. I imagine extensive-time period. I anticipate this land to be right here for a extended time, and I want to acquire treatment of it that way.”

“Part of our changeover, while, experienced to do with naturally just observation,” Candice stated. “You know when you see the drinking water ruining the streets or you see the dust storm causing traffic accidents, you have to say, ‘Okay, so I see what is actually triggering it,’ and when we recognize that we are resulting in it, then what can we do about it?”

The Lockners transformed their cropland to grassland and began a tailor made grazing operation.

“Basically, the way the marketplaces are, it is our most inexpensive choice for us to do, to not have the livestock and just tailor made graze for other men and women,” they stated.

To secure their grassland and their soil, the Lockners use rotational grazing.

“We usually rotate the cattle each individual a few to four times in the springtime and it’s possible up to a 7 days to 10 times, at the most, later in the fall when the grass is just not escalating as quick,” Dean mentioned.

By shifting the livestock swiftly more than smaller portions of pasture, the Lockners give their grassland loads of time to recover from grazing. That keeps balanced plants and balanced roots in the soil to secure it from erosion.

“There is no dust blowing right here, and we can clearly show the images in 2018 of our grassland ideal beside the discipline that’s blowing. There is absolutely nothing blowing on our grassland,” Dean explained. “We have shots of a car coming out of the dust storm, and you know it truly is very clear at the time they acquired to our grassland, but just beside our grassland, you could not see the auto a couple hundred yards into it. Which is how lousy it was. We are seeing that all the time.”

There are excellent land administration selections for farmers escalating crops, as very well.

“If you’re a farmer and you happen to be cropping your soil, you’ve bought to depart it protected. Never till it. That is possibly the most significant difficulty is tilling your floor address underneath. We want to depart that soil armor on the surface area,” Jones claimed. “We will need to have a diverse crop rotation so that we’re finding in some weighty residue crops along with some of the lighter kinds like soybeans or peas – those depart practically practically nothing to shield the soil surface.”

When it could possibly not be an option for each and every producer in each individual year, escalating a address crop or an overwintering money crop like winter wheat can be an great way to improve and shield the soil.

“Going in and planting a include crop immediately after you harvest is heading to leave a root growing in the soil to enable your biology, but it also will place anything eco-friendly above floor catching daylight, using photosynthesis to generate sugars for your microbes and then guarding the soil floor,” Jones explained.


A varied perennial plant inhabitants safeguards the soil from wind and water erosion and presents wholesome forage for livestock.

Image courtesy of Candice Lockner

By working with land administration tactics that defend the soil, producers can strengthen their profitability, strengthen their operational resilience and decrease their stress degrees.

“We are executing much less and are more rewarding than we ever were when we were being doing the job our tails off,” Dean explained. “It’s astonishing, and it would not sound sensible, and I however have that fight in just my have coronary heart: Something’s erroneous, I am not suffering enough.”

“We basically went for our annual physicals, and she stored telling us all these points had been much better. What were being we executing different?” Candice included. “And truthfully, we did not know what we ended up performing distinct until finally we received residence and realized that our lifestyle is just more sane and well balanced, and we could basically consider care of ourselves.”

Extra information about soil wellness techniques and strategies to enhance land administration are out there on

the South Dakota Soil Health and fitness Coalition’s web site.