Friday, August 5, 2011

North Dakota: Our Newest Wetland

So last Tuesday I went to the airport again to take me back to North Dakota for several activities. Kevin and Mitch Abentroth picked me up in Minot and we went up to Mohall. (Minot is still reeling from the recent floods with so many houses ruined for good.) First order of business was to attend a drainage tile field day hosted by the Hefty store in Mohall, ND. I wrote about being there last March. Drainage tile installation is a big deal in many parts of North Dakota with all of the snow and rain. That water has to be removed in order for optimum crop growth. So there was a demonstration of a field being tiled North of Mohall. There was a good turnout.Brian and Darren Hefty were both there. Brian spoke about the particulars of this operation. He has lots of experience with this and it showed.

This particular operation is with a pull type tile plow. (Unlike the self propelled tile application unit used at the NCRS). They had a big tractor, but it was pulling pretty easy at low rpm's. It was following a pre-mapped course with a gps system.

Here is the plow which also has gps guidance in order to control depth of tile placement. Depth has to be controlled in order to get the water to flow downhill to the final drain. I won't go into a sales pitch or anything, as these are pretty spendy. But compared to custom installation, and the anticipated yield increase with tile, owning one of these makes some sense. Plus you, or someone in the family, could do some custom work and recap the investment in pretty short order.

Now when I was here in March, there was quite a bit of snow, and it had been a wet fall. So everyone was worried about a wet spring. Well the worries were well founded as wet didn't describe it. It was a disaster, with up to 90% prevented planting in this area. I had never seen so much land in the summer devoid of crops. Mile after mile there were hardly any crops to be seen. I talked to some growers who had been to the meeting last March and it was like 240 acres planted out of 3000 for many of them. So it is a tough year.

At least the grower below is growing an oil well that hopefully will pump some cash because there are no crops in this field.

Many of the fields had been sprayed to control the weeds. In fact some were being worked in order to keep the fields somewhat in order. But others had not been sprayed and had weeds four feet tall. What a challenge that will be getting ready for a future crop. And hopefully it will be this fall for winter wheat or next spring.

There were a few fields that were able to be planted. Below is a field of late planted malt barley that had Pro-Germinator + Micro 500 at planting. It looked really good and the grower was pleased. It was good to see something growing anyway, because there wasn't much.

So that and a little product information presented back at the store took most of the day. We had business the next day over towards Grand Forks. Another thing going on in North Dakota is the oil boom. There is quite a bit of drilling going on, mostly in the Western part of the state. But there are not a lot of motels anyway, and those are often rented out to oilfield crews. Well as luck would have it, we found a casino resort that had rooms. It was the Spirit Lake resort just south of the town of Devils Lake, and it was really nice with inexpensive rooms and food. I had not been to this area before, but Devils Lake is a big collection point for rain runoff. It has been growing for years in the rainy seasons. Kevin said it used to be a big slough, or swamp that you could pretty much walk across. Now it is a huge deep lake that has swallowed up thousands of acres of farmland. When we were driving to it from the south, there was massive construction going on to raise up the road. It was a rough ride. I thought for sure it wouldn't be that way the next day heading north towards the town of Devils Lake. But I was wrong. Below is the view of the road out to the north as seen the next morning. Look at that sliver of a road going across the lake. Kevin said that there was a road that went under a bridge on that road. You would need a submarine now.

Here is the challenge. Raise and fortify this road. They are working around the clock. I wonder what will happen when they try to pave it, as far as traffic management. I feel bad for all of the expense, but it's jobs. (So thinks this person from high-unemployment Michigan).

So it was a very interesting day. There were more adventures to come on this Wednesday, but that will have to wait till tomorrow.