Light, blow sand is everywhere. It is a common denominator when it comes to fields ravaged by this summer's Missouri River flooding. The slightest of breezes can turn once flooded fields into a visible sand storm.
On Scott Olson's farm north of Tekamah, there are dunes of sand, eight to 10 feet high, scattered across 500 acres of fields where flood waters are now receding.
When driving across the fields, Olson must take care so as not to drive into these big dunes. His plan is simple. He wants to push much of the sand into gigantic crevices and ravines that have also scoured across his land from the erosive action of flood waters. So, he'll use the sand to reclaim some of the ravines. But he must also cover the sand with good quality soil and organic matter to get biological life going again in his soil.
According to Iowa State University Extension agricultural engineer, Shawn Shouse, who wrote a joint 2011 publication called "Repairing Flood-Damaged Farm Fields, for ISU Extension and University of Nebraska Extension, handling the sand left after flooding is an important issue. In his publication, Shouse says that if the sand is less than two inches deep, it can generally be incorporated into the soil with normal tillage.
For sand that is two to eight inches deep, a chisel plow or some other aggressive tillage equipment will be necessary. At depths of eight inches to two feet, sand must be spread out over the fields to acres where there is less sand, before it can be incorporated.
Where there are sand dunes, like on Olson's farm, farmers will need to move the sand to a location where it can be stockpiled or used to fill larger voids in the land. Of course, this comes at great cost. Olson purchased a 16-foot blade for his tractor to do the job.
There are many other issues to deal with in reclaiming land from flooding, and farmers along the Missouri River are learning about this the hard way. You can find resources for dealing with the aftermath of flooding at http://flood.unl.edu.
For more useful information for flooded farmers, watch for an upcoming article in the next print issue of Nebraska Farmer.