Hosts of DIRT

Tim Hammerich, host of Soil Sense, left, and Abbey Wick, NDSU, look at good soil underneath a field.

(Editor's note - Consider registering by Nov. 30, so you will be able to have "Seven Days to Prepare for DIRT," information sent directly to your email inbox on topics related to soil health.)

Farmers and ranchers have to spend their time wisely – time is money.

Whether you’re looking for new ways to power your soils, have more efficiency in your operation or want to discover other soil health possibilities, the two-day virtual Dakota Innovation Research & Technology (DIRT) Workshop on Dec. 8-9 has something that fits each producer's operation.

“There are practices farmers could try on small acreage that would open minds and push the envelope (on soil health) forward,” said Abbey Wick, NDSU Extension soil health specialist and host of the workshop.

This year’s virtual DIRT Workshop will feature panel discussions from both farmers and Extension personnel, the latest from scientists on research and farming practices, videos taken this summer on farms and tailgating sessions.

“Those watching the virtual event will be able to see the speakers talking from their own farm. This will be something different and more exciting than you would expect,” Wick said.

Wick and Tim Hammerich, communications consultant and host of Soil Sense and Field Check podcasts, will introduce each panel and give their own expertise during the two-day event.

Soil health is “not a one size fits all,” so there will be several innovative farming practices that can be discovered through the workshop.

All things cover crops will be a main focus of the workshop.

Ideas researched and discussed at the workshop will include: intercropping alfalfa and corn; chickpeas grown with flax; peas grown with canola; and interseeding cover crops into cash crops like corn, soybean and sunflower.

There will also be a session on relay cropping. In an example of relay cropping, farmers seed winter camelina in late fall, leaving a gap between the rows for soybeans to be planted in the spring. Both crops can later be harvested, but at different times, providing two crops off of one field.

“We’re looking at what opportunities can we create for farmers in the Northern Plains, such as growing two crops at once or growing a winter annual and seeding another crop into it and then harvesting at different times or harvesting at the same time,” she said.

Another exciting part of the workshop will be brand new field videos Wick took this summer with farmers on their farmsteads and researchers at their field plots.

“That is an exciting part (to the workshop). I have spent over 120 hours with professional videographers capturing footage on farms and research locations from New Rockford to Langdon to Rutland,” she said.

The DIRT Workshop focuses on innovative practices in soil health, research guiding management recommendations and technology available to support on-farm application.

There will be “Café Talks” with Extension agents, NRCS field staff, researchers and specialists for several 30-minute discussion groups.

“You can attend whichever discussions you want to and custom tailor the information you take in during the workshop,” Wick said.

Main sessions of the workshop include: adopting conservation tillage; fine-tuning cover crops; innovative ideas; livestock and soil health; managing problematic areas; and practices pushing the envelope.

On Dec. 8, beginning at 8:45 a.m., CST, Wick will share data on practices that prior attendees at the 2019 DIRT Workshop were considering adopting on their farms. We'll find out if they did.

During Hammerich's keynote, he will talk about the main theme of the Soil Sense podcast – the pursuit of soil health. 

In the past year and a half, Hammerich has visited with more than 50 farmers, ranchers, consultants, researchers and Extension personnel, and he understands the collaboration and innovation needed to build healthier soils.

“This will set the stage for how to approach building healthier soils – not just a prescription, but rather a pursuit,” Wick said.

On Dec. 9, research on wide-row corn, which is new in the region, will be on the agenda.

Grazing cover crops is always something livestock producers want to hear about, so there will also be a session on new research involved with that practice.

All of the farmer and researcher panels will be “question and answer,” so prepare your questions for the chat boxes.

NDSU experts, such as Aaron Daigh, Caley Gasch, Dave Franzen, Hans Kandel, Joel Ransom, Mary Keena, Miranda Meehan, Kevin Sedivec, Naeem Kalwar, Ryan Buetow, Marisol Berti, Mike Ostlie, Amit Chatterjee, Greg Endres, Kelly Cooper, Joe Ikley, Andrew Friskop, Sam Banerjee, David Ripplinger, Wick and USDA-ARS soil scientist, Mark Liebig, will all weigh in during the workshop.

Farmers and ranchers from across the Northern Plains will also share their experiences.

In addition, experts from surrounding states that will be part of the workshop include: Stefan Gailans (Practical Farmers Iowa), as well as SDSU experts Anthony Bly and Cheryl Reese.

Matt Ruark, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Russ Gesch, USDA-ARS at Morris, Minn., will also chime in on research.

Several sponsors are helping support the event, and there will be a virtual exhibit hall “with a live chat” feature. Attendees can enter the exhibit halls and check it out.

The farmer commodity groups really stepped up to support the event, as well.

“Farmers should be very proud of their commodity groups,” Wick said. “They continue to sponsor events important to their growers.” 

For certified crop advisors, there will be CEUs offered.

For more information and to register for the workshop, visit