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Growing in Agriculture: A Decrease in Tillage

Growing in Agriculture


A Decrease in Tillage


By Lucas Lentsch, Secretary of Agriculture


February 23, 2016



South Dakota’s farmers and ranchers are among our state’s top conservationists. They know that by caring for the soil and water they rely on, they are also ensuring their legacy by protecting natural resources for future generations. Today, producers are employing a multitude of different strategies to maximize their operation while also preserving these precious resources.


The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service in South Dakota published the 2015 Cropping Systems Inventory Results report late last fall. The report provides a statistical glimpse into the types of cropping systems our state’s farmers are using. It shows us that there has been a significant increase in the number of South Dakota farmers using conservation in their cropland management systems in the past ten years. Of South Dakota’s 66 counties, 17 now have 75-percent or more of their acres classified as no-till acres. That’s a jump from only four counties in 2004.


Soil and water health continues to take center stage at a regional and national level. With the Environmental Protection Agency’s attempt to expand their reach through the redefinition of what constitutes a “water of the United States,” agriculture often times gets a bad reputation. It’s important to highlight the efforts being made by our farmers and ranchers that preserve our natural resources while also increasing the quality and quantity of the food they produce. By utilizing no-till practices, farmers are leaving more organic matter in the soil which can help improve how well the soil holds water, increase soil productivity and aid in preserving the quality of our water.


South Dakota’s terrain varies greatly from one end of the state to the other. While this makes us unique, it also means that there isn’t a one size fits all approach to conserving our natural resources. I am very proud of the strides we’ve made, not because it was mandated, but because it’s the right thing to do, all while continuing to be a leader in food production. I was recently reminded of a quote from Dr. Seaman A. Knapp, the founder of Extension. “What a man hears, he may doubt, what he sees, he may possibly doubt; but what he does himself, he cannot doubt.” Here in South Dakota, we are doers. The Cropping Systems Inventory Results report shows that. It’s something we can all be proud of. Thank you.




An mp3 audio version of this column can be found on the SDDA website.


A photo of Lentsch can be downloaded here.