Sow and Grow with Sara: Every Acre Counts… find out Why! |

Sow and Grow with Sara: Every Acre Counts… find out Why!

Winter can be a time to reflect on the last production cycle, and how things can be changed and improved during the next one. Many South Dakota farms deal with marginal acres that are tough to manage and not profitable. Land management requires purposeful planning in order to produce farm profitability in a responsible, sustainable manner that will leave the farm in great shape for future generations. Climate and natural resources certainly affect those results, but management is one factor that we can control.

Although this past year was dry in most areas, excess water often times is a big factor in the creation of ‘marginal lands’. When an overabundance of water becomes an issue on farms, soil management becomes key. Crops that have very short-term water usage (for example, corn/soybean rotations) in combination with large rainfalls can cause water tables to rise, which can contribute to an increase in saline and sodic soils. In addition, intensive tillage practices can result in more water run-off and erosion. These types of land management issues can lead to profitability and long term soil health issues.

Every Acre Counts is designed to help South Dakota landowners with those ‘difficult to manage’ areas. South Dakota State University Extension, USDA – Natural Resources Conservation Service, Pheasants Forever, SD Corn, SD Soil Health Coalition, South Dakota Habitat Foundation, and Game, Fish and Parks have partnered together to create the ‘Every Acre Counts’ program (EAC). The goal of EAC is to “improve profitability, diversity, and ecosystem benefits of agriculture by using precision technologies to empower producers to make better management decisions for every acre of their operation”. EAC has five project objectives:

Characterize current technical and financial status of participating landowner operations.

Re-assess technical and financial status under potential alternative uses of marginal acres to enable landowner to make informed decisions.

Implement alternative practices on marginal lands and assess impacts on technical and financial status over multiple years.

Develop outreach materials and share with landowners, agronomists and the agricultural business sector.

Assess impacts of marginal acres program on taxpayer funded programs and agriculture policies.

This program is designed to provide free information to producers that will increase return on investment and help improve and/or enhance land management approaches that benefit the environment. Upon entering into the program, producers will work with SDSU faculty and students to get an overview of their operation and generate an accrual-based economic analysis. Information is then used to pinpoint marginal acres through the use of profit mapping software. After identifying marginal areas, alternative practice options that support good soil health will be presented to the landowner. The project team will provide technical and financial assistance to implement such practices on target acres.

The area will be monitored for several metrics (financial inputs, land productivity, wildlife diversity, etc.) over multiple years and compared to nearby marginal acres with no management changes. As a result, return on investment of alternative practices and decision support tools for successful transition of marginal acres will be created. The successful transition of marginal lands directly benefits the economic and environmental sustainability of South Dakota agriculture for years to come.

The Every Acre Counts program is available to producers anywhere in South Dakota. It offers many services including: free profitability analysis, $150 per acre of a 5 year period, $50 per acre for seeding costs, and the ability to work with experts in soil health and land management to increase farm profitability by working to improve soil health, water quality, wildlife habitat, and more. All data collected will remain confidential. Overall project findings will be disseminated through SDSU Extension and project partner outreach. For information regarding the EAC program, please contact Anthony Bly, SDSU Extension Soil Health Field Specialist at, or Matthew Diersen, SDSU Extension Risk/Business Management Specialist at or visit

Warm wishes to you and your family! There is always something to be thankful for, I’m especially thankful for a healthy family and another successful production year despite the dry conditions. Let’s look to 2022 with hope and positivity. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Upcoming Events; visit for details and registration for all events.

Ongoing: Private and Commercial Pesticide applicator re-certification courses; online

Dec. 17 @ 10am: 2021 Ag Economic Dialogues: Weather and Effects on Farming; online

Beginning Jan. 11 @ 10am: 2022 Crop Hour webinar series; online every T-Th from 1/11 to 3/3

South Dakota State University, South Dakota counties, and USDA cooperating. South Dakota State University adheres to AA/EEO guidelines in offering educational programs and services.

–SDSU Extension


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