Cropland in parts of northeast South Dakota is battling salinated soils, but we're glad to see that potential solutions are available.

Salinated soils have excess soluble salts, which decrease plant growth. "Those saline areas in the field are just deserts," says Matthew Hubers, Day County district conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, a part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. "They don't produce crops, and they don't produce wildlife."

The fields are usually identified by a white crusty surface and no crops. The problem is mostly northwest of us in the Upper James River Basin, where an estimated 2 million acres are now affected.

The problem can be addressed with soil conservation practices, including crop rotations, the planting of cover crops and the implementation of reduced-tillage or no-till practices.

In addition, a new source of funding for conservation practices designed to remedy these areas is now available. The NRCS in South Dakota has implemented a new Environmental Quality Incentives Program signup for producers in those upper James River counties. "There's approximately $1 million annually in designated funds for this effort," Hubers said.

We're glad to see this program, and other soil conservation programs, available to agriculture producers. The rest of the nation may think that farm programs only provide subsidies, without realizing the great long-term environmental and producer benefits of other programs.

-- Jon M. Hunter