IALC Peace Fellowship Report Summer 2000

Abraham K. Al-da'jeh 
Graduate Student
University Of Jordan

Tillage System Effects on Soil Structure 
in the Upper Missouri River Basin

I am glad to note that a major aim of the IALC Peace Fellowship program is "to bring students from various parts of Middle East in contact with colleagues from around the world." The IALC has established the peace fellowship program to allow undergraduate and graduate students to work closely with scientists from around the world that are working on projects funded by the IALC. I spent the month of September at South Dakota State University, Brookings, SD. Working under the direction of Dr. Tom Schumacher on a project focused on Tillage System Effects on Soil Structure in the Upper Missouri River Basin. At the same time I also worked with Dr. Anna Eynard on the IALC-sponsored project.

The main objectives of Dr. Schumacher's project are:

  1. To demonstrate that keeping more crop residues on the soil surface is the most cost-effective means for controlling erosion on the highly erodible lands.
  2. To develop and promote no-till technology through training material and activities, designed for people involved with technology transfer.
  3. To develop publications designed for the general farm audience to develop no-till technology.
  4. To implement discussion groups on sharing experiences with no-till technology.

I spent close to three weeks studying laboratory methods and analysis in the Pedology laboratory of the Plant Science Department, which is part of the project. The objective of this analysis is to evaluate soil texture in no-till and tilled fields as compared to grassland in central South Dakota. An objective of the project was to better understand changes in soil structure and organic matter occurring under these management systems.

I learned particle size analysis which will help determine the textural classes, and the particle size distributions.

I determined the following:

  • the coarse fraction percentage in the samples (> 2 mm material)
  • the fine earth fraction
  • total clay (< 0.002 mm)
  • total silt (0.002 - 0.05 mm)
  • total sand and it's sub-classes (very coarse, coarse, medium, fine, and very fine).

There are two different methods for the particle size analysis, depending fundamentally on the same physical laws of sedimentation:

  • the pipette method
  • the hydrometer method

The pipette method is more accurate. That's why it is the method used by the Pedology laboratory. I can summarize particle size analysis by the following main steps:

  1. Chemical pre-treatment
  2. Determination of > 2 mm material and organic mater removal
  3. Particle size analysis, Sieving of sands and pipetting for the clay fraction
  4. Calculation of the percentage of particles
  5. Homogeneity tests to check whether all samples, within a given site, were homogeneous in texture

Dr. Schumacher's work required that we visited many different regions in South Dakota. Each time, Dr. Schumacher would make a point of exposing me to cultural experiences. Dr. Schumacher would stop and talk about the region; it's people, and their lifestyles. We visited Burke, SD (a farming community), the Missouri River, Sioux Falls, SD (the largest city in South Dakota), soybean corn farm operation, and research fields. We also visited many sites in Brookings. The trips were excellent, educational, and cultural enrichment experiences.

Also I had the opportunity to attend the annual professional meeting of SD Chapter of the Soil Water Conservation Society in Sioux Falls, SD. The main topic of the meeting was "The Missouri River: Challenges in Soil and Water Conservation.@ Through this meeting we visited the wonderful museum (Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science), which is about the early history of the United States and South Dakota. There was a display of Native American art provided for a national Native American meeting being held at the museum. I also visited the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD, which is one of the wondrous sites of the world.

During this month I had the opportunity to interact with professors, researchers, and graduate students throughout the state. Also I had the golden opportunity to travel with a kind professor, Dr. Russell Stubbles, who is in the Horticulture Department. We went to the Shelby County Conservation Board in Iowa, to meet the director Mr. Darby. We talked about their experience in the field of conservation especially for wild flowers. This related to my project in Jordan. I am studying the Reproductive Biology and Conservation of two species of Royal Irises: I. petrana, I. nigrican in Jordan.

Dr. Schumacher was very hospitable. He invited me to his home and other activities. I spent pleasant moments with him and his family. He treated me as a member of his family. Through the sponsorship of IALC I would like to express my highest respect for him and his family. It is my hope and wish that he will visit Jordan very soon.

The experience I received through the IALC Peace Fellowship has given me a deeper understanding of the people and culture of South Dakota. I believe that the South Dakotans come from strong stock. Their ancestors include Lakota people who followed the buffalo across the plains... German, Norwegian, Czechoslovakian...and other immigrants who made this land their home. Thanks for all South Dakotans... Everywhere you look, you will see GREAT FACES and GREAT PLACES.