Jason Harmon, NDSU Department of Entomology
Abbey Wick, NDSU Department of Soil Sciences

Previous research has shown corn sensitivity to soluble salts in the soil; however, this research has not been completed specifically for ND soils or for the specific salt types found in ND soils.  In the first year of this study, we evaluated corn response to salinity and resulting pest pressure responses in the greenhouse.  The second and third years of this study were completed in the field to determine if the results from the greenhouse study held true in the “real world”.   The overall goals of this study are to determine (1) the salinity level where we start seeing corn yield declines and how quickly those yields decline with increasing soluble salts and (2) if those salt-stressed corn plants serve as potential “hot spots” for arthropod pest infestations.

In the first year of the field study (2014 growing season), we did not see a strong response in corn to low levels of soluble salts (or EC levels <4 mmhos/cm).  We have seen a mixed pest response to potentially salt-stressed corn plants: in the greenhouse stressed plants have more pests but that result was not as strong in the field.  However, this growing season (2015), there are indications of a yield response to salinity.  Soil samples are still being analyzed in the lab and arthropod pest data is being analyzed, but we are making excellent progress towards completion of this phase of the project.

Results from the greenhouse and first year of the field study were presented at soil health field days and workshops as well as professional society meetings for soil science and entomology.  At the professional meetings, graduate students funded by this project won national recognition for their efforts associated with this project.  The outstanding efforts of both graduate students have brought national visibility to both NDSU and the commodity groups funding this research.

In 2016, we hope to step back from this project and evaluate the current results.  We also will build a strong extension component around these results – (1) finishing video production of results (2) publishing circulars and research papers and (3) presenting results at extension and commodity events.