Hemp research is taking place at the Eastern Agricultural Research Center, a Kernza variety trial is under way at Williston Research Extension Center, and cover crops are being explored for their potential to improve biocontrol of wheat stem sawfly.

The MonDak’s research triangle works hard to tailor its studies to the needs of the region, and will be joining forces to talk about that work at the third annual MonDak Ag Research Summit, as well as interact with growers and producers to better understand their concerns and interests.

With such a weird weather year, and low commodity prices still hanging over the fields, growers and producers have a lot of tough questions to ask right now. Can Kernza and hemp help farmers battle low commodity prices? What’s the deal with the weather, anyway, and what’s next?

These questions and many more will be tackled during the summit, which runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Richland County Fairgrounds Event Center in Sidney, Montana.

The event is free and includes lunch, door prizes, and pesticide points. To pre-register (preferred but not required), visit tinyurl.com/2019agsummit or contact Beth Redlin at beth.redlin@usda.gov or 406-433-2020.

Climate expert Dr. Kevin Hyde, with the Montana Climate Office, University of Montana, will start things off with discussion of current climate trends, as well as what to expect next spring. He will also talk later in the day about measuring and interpreting soil moisture data.

NDSU Extension livestock specialist Jenna Block, meanwhile, will talk about using water-damaged grain for livestock. In all, more than 20 scientists will share their expertise in a variety of areas from plant pathology and soil science to insect ecology, weed control and more.

There will be a plant propagation workshop, as well as discussions of the NDSU crop budget software. There will also be presentations on Fusarium, micronutrients for sugar beets, protein yields in irrigated peas, white mold in soybeans, drones and a demonstration of corn grazing.

Cropping specialist Dr. Clair Keene, who has been working with Kernza at WREC, will be among the speakers during the dryland session, while ecologist Dr. Tatyana Rand will talk about her work with cover crops in the afternoon. Agronomist Dr. Chengci Chen, director of EARC, will also talk about hemp research in the afternoon, and John Piracha with American Harvest, has been invited to give an overview of the new hemp plant in Sidney.

Both hemp and Kernza are seen as potential new commodity markets for MonDak-area growers, though there is much work ahead to develop these markets.

Hemp has been allowed for three years now in pilot research projects under the preceding Farm Bill, and was just legalized in the current Farm Bill. Certain aspects of the crop are still being decided, particularly, the status of CBD oil extracted from hemp flowers as an ingredient in food or as a supplement.

Kernza, meanwhile, is still in the variety testing phase. it is a species of intermediate wheat grass, originally from Eurasia, that’s being developed by a Kansas plant breeder with an eye toward developing a perennial grain that farmers can plant once and harvest multiple years before planting again.

“The idea of a dual purpose crop is very appropriate here,” Keene told the Williston Herald in previous interviews. “We have a lot here who have cattle, and, even if they don’t, having forage to sell is not a bad thing to spread risk across multiple products. It could be a really good fit for this area.”

Both hemp and Kernza are drought-tolerant. Kernza is also potentially promising for managing problem areas like saline seeps. It does have some salt tolerance and, unlike alfalfa, could one day offer a cash crop as Kernza markets continue to develop.

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