BROOKINGS, S.D. — As a kid, Brad Ruden knew he was going to attend South Dakota State University and major in agronomy.
His dad raised certified seed and would host variety plot tours. Agronomists from SDSU Extension would come out and help with the tours and conduct research on their family farm.
“Plant science always interested me, and that exposure to the university early on piqued my interests in agronomy and set the foundation of what has been my life’s career,” explained the Agronomy Tech Service Manager for Agtegra Cooperative (formerly S.D. Wheat Growers and North Central Farmers Elevator).
Throughout his diverse career, Ruden has maintained close ties to SDSU faculty and relies on SDSU Extension agronomy team as a resource to keep him and his team up to date on industry certifications. And, even more importantly, to serve as what he refers to as a “ground truth.”
“One of the foundations of SDSU Extension has always been to provide unbiased, research-based information. Even though I am in a career where I can do testing myself, and I have access to all the agricultural companies.’ SDSU Extension is valuable, it serves as a ground truth of company promotions to cross check data with local testing, to help us make the best recommendations for our farmers,” Ruden said.
Ruden’s experience is not unique. Each year, the SDSU Extension agronomy team shares unbiased information and recommendations with hundreds of South Dakota agronomists and growers.
“SDSU Extension does not have to worry about making a sale. Our sole focus is providing agronomists, and the farmers they serve, with the best options,” explained Paul O. Johnson, SDSU Extension Weed Science Coordinator.
By collaborating with the S.D. Department of Agriculture, other agencies and organizations, a national network of extension researchers and the South Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station at SDSU research infrastructure, the team provides timely information to agronomists and the growers they serve in several ways including: iGrow.org, SDSU Extension’s online platform; agronomy guide books, field days, farm shows, seminars, workshops and an on-farm research website, which is funded in part by the South Dakota Soybean check off to build a community of farmers willing collaborate with SDSU researchers and SDSU Extension staff to share their own on farm research data.
SDSU Extension provides board-approved continuing education credits to certified crop advisors (CCA’s) as well as private and commercial applicator training and certification.
“SDSU Extension values the collaborative relationship we have built with agronomists throughout the state. By working with our team, they can access unbiased facts to help them best serve South Dakota’s farmers,” explained Johnson, who also oversees the 90-plus test plots that make up the SDSU WEED (Weed Evaluation Extension Demonstration) Project, research data that is collected each growing season to provide farmers with best management practices for weed control. “This is especially important during a tight farm economy. Producers need to sort through a lot of information in order to make the best decision for their fields and their bottom line.”
Field-tested, unbiased information is the reason Grant Rix, a fifth generation Brown County farmer and busy father of two, makes time to attend many agronomy-focused field days and seminars hosted by SDSU Extension and others each season.
Before returning home to farm with his dad, Rix spent the first two years of his career working as a researcher for Monsanto. Even with this background and an agronomy degree, Rix, 34, sees value in the information.
“Continuous learning is important. Things change every year – if not every month. As a farmer, I need to stay on top of different trends and technology to try and make a profit,” explained Rix, who currently serves on the board for the Northeast Research Station at SDSU and the S.D. Corn Utilization Council.
“My personal philosophy is to work to out-yield low prices. This is where unbiased, agronomy information comes in. Yes, there is a lot of good research being done on the private side. But, they are looking under a biased microscope. It’s nice to have SDSU researchers and SDSU Extension also doing research for us, because it is unbiased,” Rix said.
— Lura Roti for SDSU Extension