Prepare to see soil health presented in a virtual format that will be new, innovative and exciting.

The second annual Dakota Innovation Research & Technology (DIRT) workshop will be held in Fargo, N.D., on Dec. 8-9 this year.

It will be virtual, so everyone can watch and participate in the workshop on their phone or computer at home in the office, in their semi waiting at the elevator, or in their truck at work – anywhere.

“It isn’t just old presentations or PowerPoints. We are hiring a professional broadcaster from the studio to help us,” said Abbey Wick, NDSU Extension soil health specialist. “We’re excited about it.”

Tim Hammerich, host of the Soil Sense podcast, will fly in to the event in Fargo, and join Wick in hosting the event.

Wick wants the workshop to be creative and one that “grabs your attention,” so there are some plans that she is not disclosing right now.

They are still in the planning phase right now, but Wick said there will be videos from different farmers talking about their operations that were collected this fall.

“There will be panel of farmers presented on a 20-foot screen,” she said, noting that people watching can participate in the workshop by asking questions in the chat box.

Wick also wants to have “virtual hallways” at Extension offices that will lead to discussions.

“We will recreate what happens when farmers stop in at their local Extension office and talk with their Extension agents,” Wick said.

In addition, she is hosting soil health experts from other states speaking on what is working with soil health in their states.

“All the data is North Dakota specific to certain parts of the state,” she said. “Farmers will be able to hear from others in surrounding states and adjust the information – tweak it to fit their own operations.”

Some of the subjects that may be addressed at the DIRT workshop will include changing to conservation tillage, cover crops for soil health and grazing, water management with cover crops, and more.

There will also be virtual expo halls, where sponsors and exhibitors can present their products and services in a “live chat” format.

Cover crops will be a main discussion as producers and soil health experts are still discovering what combinations of crop mixes work for different goals.

For example, one research study has shown that it is not a good idea to plant brassicas alone in the fall if planting corn in the spring.

Brassicas, like radishes, do not create mycorrihizal, a fungus that lives symbiotically with plant roots, which is needed for planting corn the following spring.

“Brassicas need a host to form that relationship. Crops like oats should be planted with radishes,” Wick said.

Part of the workshop will focus on grazing cover crops, a main reason many producers with diverse operations plant cover crops.

Wick said last year’s inaugural DIRT workshop, also held in Fargo, was attended by many.

“We had more than 250 people attend, including some who came from the western side of North Dakota,” she said.

Wick hopes even more will be able to watch and hear this year’s DIRT workshop.

“With a virtual format, we hope it allows farmers and others in all areas of the state, and from several states, to watch and participate, especially with a professional broadcasting company helping us present it,” Wick said.

Those who register for the event, and there will be a small cost considering the professional broadcast and the presenters, will have access to a wealth of presentations and soil health information well before it is released on the website.

“There will be a package of information, presentations and links to log in to with the registration fee,” she said.

In a few weeks, Wick will let producers know about the entire workshop and what speakers, in addition to Extension agents, that will be presenting on soil health topics.