Competitive Agronomy Systems Impact Reports Back »

The 2015 crop season was an interesting one for South Dakota. Climate conditions through mid-Spring were much drier than expected on average for that time of the year. In fact, if those conditions were to continue there were concerns of a drought could happen. During May however, conditions started to change rapidly almost all over the state with much needed precipitations. This continued heavily throughout the summer in the western part of the state. In spite of the early dry conditions, rangeland recovered rapidly thanks to heavy late spring rains. Conditions on the eastern part of the state were variable entering into the early summer. Precipitation amounts were moderate to dry after the wetness in May through mid-summer. However, later in the season there were heavier rainfalls in southeast and east central SD. Moderate temperatures accompanied the rainfalls making in general for an excellent growing season. Fall temperatures were quite warm helping with crop maturation and later than average frost conditions reduced any potential losses. Overall crop and grassland growing conditions were good throughout the state. Yield reports were moderate to good with only a few areas of yield losses around Mitchell and other small, more isolated than widespread pockets.

Weather conditions made for quite a different season for SDSU Extension Field Specialists. However, with continuous up-to date information and leadership by Dennis Todey (former South Dakota State Climatologist & SDSU Extension Climate Specialist), and SDSU Extension Climate Field Specialist Laura Edwards, Field Specialists were able to adjust their programmatic activities accordingly. As a result the 2015 crop season was very successful not only from the point of view of attendance to SDSU Extension programs but also because of the impacts reflected on crops yields.




According to the NASS during 2015 there were the same number (5.11 million) of soybean acres harvested in South Dakota in 2015 compared to 2014. Again, the excellent weather conditions resulted in only slightly higher yields per acre during 2015 (46 vs. 45 bushels). As a result the 2015 soybean crop was of 235 million bushels compared to 229.9 in 2014. South Dakota was number 7 in the US in soybeans during 2015.

The SDSU Extension Competitive Crops Systems Capstone conducted soybeans on-farm research and shared this information in workshops, iGrow articles, and radio programming. During the month of July farm tours were conducted at the Southeast, Northeast, and Volga Research stations performing soybean tissue sampling and interpretation.

Soil amendments and additive research projects were conducted funded by the South Dakota Soybean Research and Promotion Council (SDSRPC). Topics were: B-Sure evaluation as a foliar application on soybean grain yield, measuring the influence of Nutri-Pak foliar application on soybean grain yield, determine the effectiveness of Environmentally Sensitive N on soybean seeds at planting, evaluate the effectiveness of B-Sure application (amino acid) on soybean productivity, determine the effectiveness of late season N (urea) on grain yield, and the effects of manure application on soybeans.    

Several articles on the subject accompanied the applied research such as: Starter fertilizer in Soybeans, Planting Soybeans in Dry Conditions, Sulfur Considerations for Corn and Soybeans in South Dakota, 2014 Field Plot Summaries for Soybeans: Plant Diseases & Fungicide Trials, Did it Pay to Apply Foliar Fungicides in Soybeans in 2015?, and Insurance and Marketing Factors for Corn, Soybeans and Spring Wheat.


With 2.2 million acres of wheat, South Dakota ended in the top 10 states during 2014. In fact, during 2014, the state ranked fourth in the country for “all wheat” production. This past year however wheat production was down 16 percent for an estimated 60.5 million bushels according to USDA’s NASS. In spite of having planted 2 percent more acres, they harvested 2 percent less. Total acres planted and harvested were 1.33 and 1.26 million, respectively. Yields this year were 48 bushels per acre while during 2014 they were 56. Total winter wheat production was also significantly down (28 percent) from 2014. This was in part a combination of less harvested acres (down 10 percent) and a reduction in yield (20 percent) compared to 2014.

Again this year members of the SDSU Extension Competitive Crops Systems Capstone conducted the traditional Wheat Walks in Ft. Pierre, Wall, Winner, and Delmont. In addition they also conducted the 2015 Winter Wheat Tours in Kennebec, Sully County, where they also conducted a 2015 Wheat Variety Tour. The Draper Winter Wheat Meeting was also conducted in 2015.

SDSU Extension Agronomy Field Specialist David Karki cultivating spring wheat in an SD field.

These were accompanied by a number of iGrow publications like: Winter Wheat condition in central South Dakota, Insurance and Marketing Factors for Corn, Soybeans and Spring Wheat, Army cutworms spotted in winter wheat, Winter Wheat Outlook in Eastern South Dakota- Spring 2015, Feedback Sought on Wheat Varieties, Assessing winter wheat survival, Low Temperature Effects on Winter Wheat, Stripe rust and viral diseases developing in wheat, Assessing for Fusarium head blight (scab) in winter wheat, Ergot is showing up in wheat, Feeding Damaged Wheat, 2015 Spring Wheat Variety Trials’, Wheat streak mosaic virus: Know the sources of inoculum, Wheat streak mosaic of wheat, Fall Winter Wheat Conditions in Eastern South Dakota, Should Fungicides be Applied to Winter Wheat in The Fall?, Redfield Pest Management Guide Wheat, Changes in Argentinian Government to Affect U.S. Wheat Prices, and Red Winter Wheat, 2015 South Dakota Spring Wheat Variety Trial Results.


According to the NASS during 2015 there were 370,000 fewer corn acres harvested in South Dakota in 2015 compared to 2014. However excellent weather conditions and rain events at critical points in time during the growth of the crop resulted in higher yields per acre during 2015 (161 vs. 148 bushels). As a result the 2015 crop with almost 797 million bushels was 9.59 million bushels greater than 2014. This production had South Dakota as number 6 in corn for grain during 2015.

Several on-farm research projects were conducted by SDSU Extension Field Specialists during 2015. Examples of such were: Evaluate nitrogen timing, ESN (Smart N) and SuperU influence on corn grain yield, Evaluate the effectiveness of Instinct on urea nitrification. Accompanying the research were articles in support of corn production in the state such as: U.S. Corn Exports to China, 2014 Corn Silage Hybrid Performance Trial Results, Soil Test Potassium, Sulfur, Zinc, Boron and Lime Effects on Corn, Ascend (growth regulator) effect on corn emergence, early growth plant and root dry matter, early growth plant nutrient concentration and grain yield of two hybrids, Influence of Avail (carboxylated polymer) on corn plant nutrient uptake and grain yield in a field with high soil test P, Corn Grain Response to Nitrogen-loss Additives and Rate, Phosphorus rate, application method and timing influence on corn and soybean grain yields, Nitrogen Timing and Product Effects on No-till Corn, Instinct and N management effect on corn grain yield, Insurance and Marketing Factors for Corn, Soybeans and Spring Wheat, expectations for Corn Exports 2015, 2015 Corn Planting Concerns, Corn- Insights on Planting and Early Frost Damage, Feeding Sorghum Crops as Alternatives to Corn, Low Temperature Damage to Corn and Soybean, Sulfur Considerations for Corn and Soybeans in South Dakota, Wind Injury in Corn, 2014 Field Plot Summaries for Corn: Plant Diseases & Fungicide TrialsCorn production costs in the Northern Great Plains, Evaluation of sorghum DDGS digestibility in comparison to corn co-products and soybean meal, Establishing Corn Silage Value Indian Corn & Popcorn, 2015 South Dakota Corn Hybrid Variety Trial Results in Volga, South Shore, Bancroft, Bath, Beresford, Geddes, Miller, South Shore, Corn Progress Report in Eastern South Dakota, and the Pest Management Guide: Corn

Soil Health

The Competitive Crops Systems Capstone had Soil health as one of its priorities for 2015. They understood Production agriculture is dependent upon the soil’s capacity to function properly. Activities were accomplished through field days, iGrow articles, and general media publications. In January 2015 a workshop “South Dakota's Soil health Challenge: Don't Get left in The Dust” was conducted in Fort Pierre. There an excellent selection of speakers discussed techniques and practices that farmers and ranchers could use on the land to improve soil health and be sustainable. Later on during the summer SDSU Extension was involved in putting together a Soil Health Field Day with Internationally renowned soil and crop experts at the Dakota Lakes Research Farm near Pierre, SD. Following this a series of Soil Health and cover crops tours were conducted across the state in several counties such as Clay, Turner, Brookings, Hamlin, Minnehaha, Clark, Codington, Lake, and also in Lemmon, South Dakota. An impact of these activities was the first Annual Meeting of the new South Dakota Soil Health Coalition (SDSHC) at the Ramkota Hotel and Convention Center, in Pierre, SD. This meeting included reports on events and projects of the first few months of the Coalition being organized, as well as, previews of upcoming activities. Crop farmers in attendance offered suggestions for the future to improve soil health. By design, the SDSHC event is scheduled in conjunction with the South Dakota Ag Horizons Conference and the South Dakota Association of Conservation Districts Convention (SDACD) all being held at the Ramkota.

Nearly 400 producers, industry and government personnel attended the winter soil health workshops and 2-250 attended the soil health field events in 2014-15. Attendees heard presentations from a variety of speakers who covered subjects such as incorporating cover crops and utilizing no-till farming methods. They learned these management practices can improve soil health and build soil organic matter. As a result of the high level of interest in these subjects The NRCS has initiated The South Dakota Soil Health Coalition. This will also help elevate awareness and build these practices into SD Agriculture. Long term impacts of farmers adopting these practices will include resilience to extreme climate because of higher soil organic matter, diverse production systems and improved yields. All these impacts will benefit the state of South Dakota by keeping farmers profitable. Incorporating these practices will have a direct and positive influence on South Dakota’s natural resources including water quality.

All these Soil Health activities were accompanied by iGrow articles such as the following: 1. Soil Testing Labs, 2. Soil Test Potassium, Sulfur, Zinc, Boron and Lime Effects on Corn, 3. Crop Nutrient Management using manure, 4. Corn Grain Response to Nitrogen-loss additives and rate, 5. Phosphorus rate, application method and timing influence on corn and soybean grain yields, 6. Nitrogen Timing and Product Effects on No-till corn, 7. Instinct and N management effect on corn grain yield, 8. Soil Fertility Management Impact Statement, 9. Soil pH and Liming for South Dakota Soils, 10. Sulfur Considerations for Corn and Soybeans in South Dakota, 11. Pre Side-dress Nitrate Test (PSNT) for corn, 12. Ammonia Loss from Urea, 13. Sorghum Nutrient Requirements.

Among the on-farm activities displayed by SDSU Extension Field Specialists in the area of soil health were: Evaluate the effectiveness of in-furrow and foliar applications of Nutrient Products in the SE Research Farm, Evaluate effectiveness of side-dress N in Crooks, Evaluate of B, Cu and Mn on grain yield and soil test. SE farm, Garretson, Crooks, Arlington, and NE Farm, Evaluate long term N, P, K and Zn application in the NE Farm, Evaluate of B, Cu and Mn on grain yield and soil test. Garretson (2x), Crooks, Arlington and NE farm, and the West Central In-Furrow and Foliar Product Evaluation.

According to a NRCS survey no-till was found to be the predominant cropping system on 45%, or 6.2 million acres of South Dakota cropland. The percentage of acres under conventional tillage systems was unchanged, but the location of the acres has shifted to eastern South Dakota. The number of counties with less than 1/4 of their cropland under no-till decreased by almost 69% between 2004 and 2013. The number of counties with more than 75% of their arable surface devoted to no-till increased by 350% during the same time period. Regrettably, in Eastern South Dakota there was the opposite trend with 16 counties decreasing acres under no-till some by as much as 60%. Because of its benefits for soil moisture retention the greatest increases were observed west river in areas where there is less rainfall.

A couple of other critical soil health trials were: Learning about the benefits of integrated crop-livestock systems on soil health (SARE) where through case studies leading producers together with SDSU Extension researchers used livestock and conservation practices to improve soil health. And a proposed project to the Buffet Foundation which will study applied research and demonstration to promote cover crops and soil health in Southeastern South Dakota. This project will particularly promote the use of no-till and cover crops in corn/soybean cropping systems in southeastern South Dakota.


The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) reports that acres of alfalfa and alfalfa-grass mixtures in the U.S. declined by 108,000 from 2014 to 2015. The largest year-to-year decline occurred in Missouri where acreage dropped by 25 percent from 280,000 to 210,000. Other states with significant acreage reductions occurred in Idaho (60,000), California (55,000), Ohio (50,000) and Minnesota (50,000). States with the largest alfalfa acreage increases included New York (70,000), Michigan (60,000), Wisconsin (50,000), Montana (50,000) and Kansas (50,000). The top total alfalfa or alfalfa-grass acreage states are Montana (1.9 million acres), South Dakota (1.9 million acres), North Dakota (1.6 million acres), Wisconsin (1.3 million acres) and Minnesota (1.05 million acres). The top five alfalfa producing states making up 35% of all production are: California, South Dakota, Idaho, Iowa, and Minnesota. California, the leading alfalfa hay producer in the U.S., underwent a severe drought. This has resulted in increased demand for hay to supplement cattle.

Former SDSU Extension Forages Field Specialist Karla Hernandez sampling forages from a field.

To make matters worse forage yields in California were also negatively impacted due to reduced soil moisture. During the 2013-2014 period California and Idaho hay stocks dropped by 56 and 44 percent, respectively. South Dakota’s alfalfa could become increasingly competitively priced in the future and the state needs to be prepared.

Needs Assessment Survey

As a result SDSU Extension conducted a needs assessment to better understand the situation of forage growers in South Dakota.

  • A survey was distributed to 230 livestock producers in South Dakota and members of the Grassland Coalition.
  • A total of 81 of these surveys were fully completed. Most responses came from North Central (29%), followed by East Central (28%), South East (28%), South Central (6%), and North East (5%).

Below is the series of questions and results for each category. There was definitely an interest in bringing back the alfalfa variety trials.

Question 1: In your farming operation, how are forages used?

  • As a temporary supplement to rangeland during periods of drought or heavy snow.
  • As an alternative to rangeland on a seasonal basis – livestock graze during the summer and fall, then are in a drylot for the winter and early-spring.
  • As a primary feedstock – my livestock very rarely, if ever, are on pasture.
  • I seldom, if ever, require the use of forages. (If so, please respond to the following for how your neighboring farms operate.)

Question 2: How do you obtain your forages?

  • I prefer to produce my own and manage the whole process – planting, harvest, storage, and feeding.
  • I own the land; however, somebody else manages the production of the forages for me.
  • I produce some of the forages which I use; however, my usage is high enough where I occasionally need to buy forages on the open-market.
  • I am entirely dependent on the open-market for the forages I use.

Question 3: What type of forages do you mainly use?

  • Only Alfalfa
  • Alfalfa-Grass mixtures
  • Mostly grasses (prairie hay or “ditch” hay)
  • Some other type of cover-crop (oat-pea mixtures; vetches; etc…)

Question 4: No matter the source of your forages -what is the main concern you have when approach a bale of that particular forage?

  • What is the nutritive quality of this material?
  • How much of this material can I obtain per acre?
  • How well does this material work in a crop rotation?
  • Will this stuff grow in my soil conditions? 

Question 5: What best describes the soil conditions you live?

  • My soils are for the most part really fertile and have no problems with drought or salinity.
  • My soils are generally fertile, although they suffer when there is a lack of rainfall.
  • My soils are generally fertile, although I find that salts and pH problems restrict growth.
  • My soils are generally a challenge to grow anything in due to a number of problems. (Please explain what you feel the most challenging problem is to your production operation.)

Question 6: Please provide a short response to this statement: “If I were to call the Extension office the most important thing the Extension Agent I am speaking to can offer is:”

  • Help determine nutritive quality of hay
  • Help! Forages are a good topic. Davison County has some dairy and lots of beef
  • Review at alfalfa and soil type alternatives
  • What practices are producing the best quality and quantity of forages
  • Expertise on forage quality
  • Alfalfa variety hardiness. Resistance to insects and variety nutritive value and yield

Pesticide Applicator Training

SDSU Extension devoted a significant amount of its time to Pesticide Applicator Training and Commercial Applicator Training. In 2015, 833 private applicators attended private applicator training in the Southeastern part of the state. Surveys were handed out with 100 % of the participants returning them.


  • 70% of attendees scout their fields and ID the pest before spraying; while 24% of attendees rely on their crop consultant to scout their fields.
  • 72% indicated that they always consider the economic thresholds for pests before applying a pesticide.
  • 44.5% calibrate their sprayers once a year, 40.5% calibrate their sprayers when making major changes, 8% state they don’t calibrate their sprayers because they have a rate controller; while 5.6% never calibrate their sprayer.
  • 50% of attendees state that they always wear gloves while applying pesticides, 20% state that they wear gloves more than 50% of the time, 22% said that they wear gloves less than 50% of the time, while 8% said they never wear gloves when applying pesticides.
  • 58% of participants always wear gloves when loading/mixing pesticides, while 3% of the people stated that they never wear gloves while loading/mixing pesticides.
  • 58% stated that they wear the same glove type for all types of pesticide applications (herbicide vs. fungicides vs. insecticide), 30% wore different types of gloves; while 9% only work with one type of pesticide.
  • 59% do not use a smartphone when making their crop management decisions; while 17% said they currently utilize smartphone apps in their crop management decision; and 20% do not utilize a smartphone at all.
  • When asked, “Based on what you have learned at Extension Meetings the past two years, has your ability to manage seedling diseases of soybean improved? 71% answered yes!
  • When asked to think back about their past two growing seasons 33% estimate that seedling diseases have impacted their yield by 3-5 bushels per acre; 31% say they have seen a hit of 1-2 bushels per acre; and 10% stated that than have been impacted by more than 5 bushels per acre.
  • 66% have incorporated seed treatments into their production; 41% utilize resistant varieties; 7% made changes in their date of planting.
  • 65% state that they do not incorporate an early fungicide (R1-soybean beginning flowering) as part of their routine soybean disease management.
  • 70% said that they do not utilize an early fungicide (V6 corn) as part of their routine corn disease management.

Impact Reports

Access the links below to view a complete impact report for each topic:

View "Making An Impact" for more information about other SDSU Extension programs.

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