New agronomist joins Hettinger extension

If a producer needs to know if his crop needs more nitrogen, John Rickertsen is the go-to person in Hettinger.

John Rickertsen joins Hettinger extension office as new agronomist.
John Rickertsen joins Hettinger extension office as new agronomist.

Posted Jan. 24, 2013

By JAMIE SPAINHOWER

Adams County Record Editor

If a producer needs to know if his crop needs more nitrogen, John Rickertsen is the go-to person in Hettinger.

Rickertsen started at the NDSU Extension Office as the agronomist on Jan. 14, coming from Rapid City and the SDSU Extension Office there.

“It was a good opportunity for me, and I am excited to be able to be here,” he said. Prior to Rapid City, Rickertsen worked at West River Crops for 11 years.

Growing up on a “typical Nebraska farm of cattle and corn,” he was always interested in the plant side of the family operation and knew it was what he wanted to do.

“It think part of what drew me to the plant side was all the time chasing down cattle,” he laughed. “Dad liked the cow and I liked the plants. It worked out well.”

HE obtained both his bachelors and masters degrees at the University of Nebraska.

“This is a great opportunity for me,” he said. “I look forward to continuing Erik’s programs and the research program.”

The biggest challenge facing farmers at the moment is moisture – or the lack thereof.

“The weather has flip-flopped, with two really wet years, and then last year not much moisture to speak of, and a very early and warm spring pushed to plant earlier,” he said.

There were many good crops this year, in part because the soil retained moisture, even if it was three or four feet down, so the plants will root down that far if the water is there. Rickertsen credits that in part to the no-till procedure many producers in the Dakotas are using.

Instead of tilling under stubble or the land itself, no-till involves direct seeding without any tillage.

This helps with erosion, and keeps the soil wetter than it would be otherwise. This in turn keeps the wind from blowing topsoil from fields into the ditch. How and when fields are rotated and herbicide use become more of an issue, he said, and though it may take awhile, eight- to 10-years, the practice can actually change the substance of the soil.

“We are seeing more and more of no-till and I’d say the Dakotas probably lead the nation with no-till acres,” said Rickertsen.

However, if it is a dry winter and the spring rains don’t come, it could be a tough summer for farmers, since the stored moisture was pretty much used up this past season.

Forecasts for the weather “are not promising as they continue to call for dry conditions,” he said. “We need to hope for spring rains in April, May and June, which are typically the rainy months, especially if we don’t get much snow.”

On the positive side, the last couple of years have brought good commodity prices, and the cost of oil is going down.

“People don’t always realize how they are intertwined, not just diesel in the tractor, but in the fertilizer as well,” he said. The cost of natural gas is going down, which is a benefit to help keep down the price of nitrogen. “It is used in the making of anhydrous as well, and when oil goes up, so does everything else.”

He is looking forward to continuing research and the breeding of new varieties of wheat.

“We are coming up with wheat breeding programs that are more resistant to disease and have a better quality for flour,” he explained. This process is ongoing and includes other commodities as well.

John’s wife, Jennifer, remains in Rapid City with their two youngest children, Zachary, who is in sixth grade, and Vanessa, who is a junior in high school and when she graduates the family will move. They also have a daughter, Cassandra, who is a junior at St. Olaf.

“My wife likes it here too. Have some road time for awhile, but I’m always available and look forward to getting to know the community,” he said.