In 1959 preliminary plans for an Irrigation and Experiment Station under the auspices of the NDSU were set up to be located four miles north of Carrington. Test pumps were able to remove 1,400 gallons of water a minute with a quick recovery. The 640 acres of station land is used to study various aspects of farming such as the effects of hail on crops to the comparison of the growth of cattle fed in irrigated pastures and in dry lots.
Experiment stations of this type were scattered through out the country because of the different climates, topography, and soil types.
The station in Carrington under the management of Howard Olson concentrated on dry land and irrigation in the south central part of North Dakota. They have trial stations at Jamestown, Wishek, and Steele.
The stations' functions may be divided into four main categories
1. Agricultural research- testing new varieties of seed under dry land conditions as well as with irrigation at various stages of growth of the plants.
2. Provide facilities for graduate students and professors to run trial plots:
3. Conduct tours during the summer to give the information collected to interested people.
4. Seed increase- provide new varieties to the farmers.
Another project that station deals with is cattle production. This involves about 100 Hereford cattle which are divided into two groups. One is fed from a dry lot, and the other group is allowed to feed on a field of irrigated alfalfa.
The two groups are then compared as to their gain per day and the quality of carcass at slaughtering time. The dry lot method has been proven to be a more efficient way of feeding cattle.
After the data is collected, analyzed, and summarized it is then relayed to the public through the county agents and county Extension service.
This project enabled a better use of the forage crops by marketing them by feeding them to the cattle first.
Another "first" is a solar hay-drying shed. The structure is 40 x 100 feet rectangular shaped roof constructed out of solar, panels, which are similar to a green house's panels. The sides are stack panels.
The aim is to produce high quality feed at a low price. With the solar hay drying shed there will be no more two or three days for the hay to dry. This will also eliminate the baling process. The hay will be chopped and moved into the shed. Most of the hay's protein is in the leaves. When alfalfa dries the leaves become brittle and break off when hauling. Therefore, the sooner the hay can be removed from the ground the better quality it is.
The solar drying shed has about 150-ton storage capacity. The hot air is pulled down from the roof by ten horsepower fans at each end of the building and forced into a drying duct running through the middle of the building. The duct is two feet wide at the top and four feet at the base plus large enough for a man to walk through. As the hay is distributed over the duct, the hay will be dried from the inside out.
A conveyor belt will carry the chopped hay to the ceiling where it will be distributed throughout the building in a spinning fashion.
The building cost about $35,000. Time will tell if it is a successful practice.
Field Day at Carrington on July 1980, featured a sun oil extractor in action and a tractor that was operating on sun-oil mixture.
Testing herbicides and their affect on the crops is another phase of the operation.
Experiments with new equipment such as air seeders are also carried out. This machine may be used in the spring as well as in the fall. Tests show that this type of seeding works especially well in a dry season. Fertilizer and seeds are placed in the ground at the same time.
Another concept being tested is the practice of no-till for spring planting. This is another way to conserve moisture and conserve energy. No-till or minimum till of row crops both on dry land and irrigated lands has been proved to definitely save both time and fuel. Corn and sunflower crops were being tested throughout the state. Pre-emergence broadcast sprays were used to control the weeds. The crops were then cultivated at least once during the growing season for further control of weeds. Data is still being collected.
Source: A History of Foster County 1983 Page 111