Noise in a field shouldn't be contained to only field work seasons or birds, said two scientists with the USDA North Central Soil Conservation Research Laboratory..

 

"Noise is life," said Frank Forcella. A field should noisy with the sound of pollinators such as bees. "It's like when you are a new parent and your baby is crying. When the baby is quiet, you are scared."

 

"Yes, something is going on, something is wrong," said Russ Gesch of the quiet.

 

It's the same way in a field or land. If the buzz of bees and other insects can't be heard, something is wrong, the scientists said.

 

Forcella and Gesch are longtime scientists at the Soils Lab. The Soils Lab will celebrate its 60th anniversary Thursday, Aug. 6. Research staff at the lab has worked with soil, crops and farming methods during those 60 years.

 

Forcella and Gesch have conducted research on cover crops and pollinators. The studies have reinforced the importance of noisy fields.

 

Pollinators help various crops grow. They are also important to the growth of other plants and flowers. Pollinators help germinate strawberries and even soybeans. As bee populations struggle in the U.S. and honey production decreases because of that, scientists like Forcella and Gesch are finding ways to help the pollinator population.

 

 

 

"If a soybean plant has access to pollinators, it can increase production. It may be only a couple of bushels per acres but nevertheless, (it's an increase)," Forcella said.

Flowering crops such as camelina and pennycress attract pollinators. Camelina produces an oil used in cooking and food products. The scientists have had success growing camelina in the area. The oil has been well received by by various interest groups, the scientists said. There is a strong possibility camelina could turn into a good cover crop for farmers in fields with a soybean and corn rotation, the scientists said.

 

Camelina is also a good choice for state requirement of buffer strips along bodies of water, Forcella and Gesch said.

 

Fields with those crops and other oilseed crops burst with noise.

 

"It's just humming," Gesch said. "You go through a corn or soybean field and all you hear is the wind."

 

Minnesota has at least 400 species of bees that could benefit from oilseed crops, Forcella said. In turn, flowers, fruits and other plans will benefit from those bees, he said.

 

"Close to half the domestic bee population in the nation is housed in western Minnesota and eastern South Dakota and eastern North Dakota in the summer months," Forcella said.

 

Think of how those bees could benefit from more flowering plants in area such as Morris, Forcella and Gesch said.

 

Farmers would benefit not just with the work pollinators do but also because oilseed crops such as camelina hold nitrogen which is ideal for a buffer strip. The crop also works well growing along side a traditional crop because it can be harvested without harming the traditional crop. The crop is being harvested now in various fields in Morris but processing is limited, the scientists said.

 

The need for buffer strips, increased interested in cover crops and the known benefit to pollinators could make this an ideal time for oilseed crops such as camelina to burst into the market, Forcella and Gesch said. There is interest in developing processing plants, but crop acres and other factors need to fall in line, the scientists.

 

The Soils Lab 60th Anniversary Thursday, Aug. 2, starts with registration at 9 a.m. followed by the keynote address at 9:30 a.m. Tours of the lab and research farms start at 10 a.m. and complimentary lunch will be served at noon at the lab.