Precision ag conversation continues on July 17 episode of SDSU Extension Contours

Farm Forum

BROOKINGS — The Global Agricultural Imperative Report states that in 40 years, agriculture output will have to increase 100 percent.

During the July 17 episode of SDSU Extension Contours, a panel of South Dakota experts look at the role precision agriculture will play in tackling this challenge.

“What is the potential of precision agriculture in the future? The answers are very exciting and a little mind-numbing,” said Barry Dunn, president of South Dakota State University and former dean of the College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences. “The long-term goal for agriculture is to increase quality and productivity, while making production more efficient and sustainable. That will mean evaluating existing and future farming practices by using technologies that are data-centric.”

The second in a two-part series, the July 17 episode of SDSU Extension Contours will air at noon (CST) on South Dakota Public Broadcasting. It continues a conversation focused on precision agriculture which aired June 19.

Developed to explore important agriculture topics in open conversations with agriculture leaders, Contours is produced by SDSU College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences and SDSU Extension. The June 19 episode can be viewed at

Exciting times for agriculture

Dunn discusses the future of precision agriculture with Keith Alverson a sixth-generation Chester farmer and SDSU agronomy graduate; Shane Swedlund, facility and engineering manager for Raven Industries Applied Technology Division; Dr. David Wright, department head of SDSU Plant Science Department and Nic Uilk, instructor in the SDSU Agriculture Engineering Department.

When it comes to precision agriculture today, Alverson says it makes for exciting times on his farm. “The amount of information that we have and the capabilities that we have at our fingertips and within our tractor cabs and equipment is pretty incredible,” Alverson said, sharing an example of how precision agriculture impacts field applications of nutrients and pesticides.

“We are able to apply 4 to 12 ounces of product – about the size of a perfume bottle or can of Coke – across an acre of land (the size of a football field) … to do this evenly and accurately is something that requires technology and precise management. This is the capabilities of the some of the equipment we have today,” Alverson said.

Moving into the future, precision agriculture technology will become even more precise and touch more than equipment, explained Swedlund.

“There is a lot of development going on in the sensor world which will allow for the monitoring of plant health, helping to determine what a plant’s needs are …to help the plant be more efficient as well,” Swedlund said.

As advancements in precision agriculture aid to increase yields-per-acre and maximize efficiencies, Wright explained that at the same time they bolster consumer relationships.

“Everything we do in agriculture is about food production. Precision agriculture has helped us increase productivity and profitability in an ecosystem-friendly manner,” Wright said.

“Anything we can do in agriculture to reduce the amount of inputs and to improve sustainability of our very valuable ecosystems, builds consumer confidence because our population of consumers today are very aware of where their food comes from. It’s an emotional issue with many, many people out there today.”

Reinforcing this point, Wright pointed to the fact that by 2050, farmers, ranchers and the agriculture industry as a whole, will be responsible for feeding 9 million plus.

“South Dakota plays a major, major role in that,” Wright said.

To help South Dakota farmers meet this challenge, in 2016 South Dakota State University will add a Bachelor’s of Science in Precision Agriculture to its degree offerings. “We are training students on all aspects of precision agriculture. There are lots of students who are knowledgeable on agronomy, machinery or electronics or data management, but it is difficult to find a student who understands it all well – but in today’s precision agriculture world they have to … because they are all intertwined,” Uilk said.

To learn more and to view previous Contours episodes, visit