South Dakota Farmers Encouraged to Participate in Yield Variation SDSU Extension Soil Resiliency and Crop Insurance project

BROOKINGS, S.D. – South Dakota farmers are encouraged to participate in the SDSU Extension Soil Resiliency and Crop Insurance Project developed to determine the correlation between yield variation and soil microbial numbers.

“South Dakota weather is full of variables. We are looking at soil microbial counts as an indicator of soil health, and correlating that to yields,” explained Heather Gessner, SDSU Extension Livestock Business Management Field Specialist. “The idea that you can’t change what you don’t measure motivates this study.”

South Dakota State University researchers and SDSU Extension staff hope the results of this study will aid farmers with the measurement so they can increase their understanding of soil health and yields and then evaluate, or further measure, how changes could impact their bottom line.

“Our hypothesis is larger numbers of microbes present lead to decreased fluctuation in yields, even if the weather isn’t 100 percent ideal for production year to year,” Gessner said.

Ideally, Gessner said if the hypothesis is found to be true, and there is a measurable difference in yield fluctuations, the information could be used by producers to make business decisions. “For example, when it comes to crop insurance coverage levels, if limited variation in yields occurs due to soil health levels, the producer may reduce coverage levels, thus reducing per acre premiums, due to the reduced change of yield losses. The yield losses are tied to the per acre revenue covered,” Gessner said.

Or, based on soil microbe counts, producers could evaluate soil nutrient levels and work to improve levels if needed. “Improvement may be accomplished by many means,” Gessner said. “Evaluation of the costs to make adjustments would ensure the operation makes the best decision for them.”

Calling South Dakota farmers to get involved

The SDSU Extension Soil Resiliency and Crop Insurance Project is looking for eastern South Dakota farmers who utilize traditional tilling practices of discing, field cultivating or other similar practices either in the spring or fall or a combination to participate.

If you are a farmer interested in participating, contact Gessner at or 605-782-3290.

–SDSU Extension