South Dakota corn growers are green by nature.
We take care of the land – ensuring our environmental practices are as green as possible and working to minimize our carbon footprint, maximize sustainability and maintain productivity.
Conservation tillage practices like no-till, low-till, strip-till and minimum till reduce erosion and improve the organic composition of the soil. These methods are not only environmentally sensible, but economical, too. The National Corn Growers Association explains that by using conservation tillage practices, growers can:
- Reduce soil loss by more than 90 percent and rainfall runoff by 60 percent
- Use 27 percent less water by increasing water movement and moisture retention in the soil
- Save 2–3.5 gallons of diesel fuel (compared to conventional tillage practices) per acre
- Reduce carbon emissions by 44–77 pounds per acre
- Save on input costs for labor, pesticides, nutrients and machinery
By using cover crops, farmers increase the organic matter and essential nutrients in their soil, while helping reduce erosion and compaction. Cover crops increase the amount of residue left on the land, allowing farmers to feed the soil year-round.
A recent study from Iowa State University showed a 5-10 percent corn yield increase using erosion-slowing cover crops.
Reducing Our Carbon Footprint
Recent research conducted by South Dakota State University and South Dakota Corn proved that corn production in eastern South Dakota is putting carbon back into the soil, reducing the carbon footprint of corn.
Several facts are key to the science behind the research results. One of the most important is the ability of South Dakota corn producers to grow higher yields in the cooler, Northern Plains climate.
- Over the 25 years of the study, South Dakota corn average yields have increased at a rate of 2.29 bushels per acre per year.
- Reduced tillage and higher yields mean more crop residue left behind. The increased amount of residue has a significant impact in building soil carbon.
- The cooler Northern Plains climate plays a key role in the equation due to mineralization, a process by which organic matter and humus break down in the soil. When there are cooler temperatures, the mineralization rates are lower.
Modern science has produced corn seeds genetically enhanced to resist weed, insect and disease pressures. These genetically modified or GMO corn hybrids dramatically reduce pesticide and herbicide use.
Biotech corn absorbs costly nutrients more readily, helping growers get more from a pound of fertilizer than ever before. New hybrids in the works incorporate traits such as drought resistance and ethanol readiness.
Drive down any rural South Dakota road, and you’ll see the latest in efficient agricultural practices at work in the fields. And growers are using sophisticated methods and advanced precision ag technology like:
- Global Positioning System (GPS) technology for precise, spatial reference of field characteristics
- Mapping software—or Geographic Information Systems (GIS)—for analysis and display of collected data
- Equipment fitted with Variable Rate Technology (VRT) to control input application rates according to location in the field
With precision ag, farmers save $19 an acre on crop inputs, such as seed, fertilizer and chemical, for an overall 15 percent savings. Corn growers have seen an average yield increase of 4-7 bushels an acre using precision ag.