NATURAL RESOURCES CONSERVATION SERVICE, Huron, SD, April 29, 2014–More farmers across South Dakota are using conservation in their cropland management systems than a decade ago announces officials with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

Last year, South Dakota NRCS and partners conducted a county-level inventory on cropland management systems (no-till, mulch tillage, reduced tillage or conventional tillage) and crop types planted.

NRCS State Conservationist Jeff Zimprich, Huron, who released the report says “The results of the 2013 Cropping Systems Inventory shows a 29 percent expansion in no-till farming systems in South Dakota acres since 2004, which was the last time this type of data was collected in South Dakota.

The 2013 inventory found use of no-till cropping systems to be predominant on 45 percent of South Dakota cropland (6.2 million acres).  A cropping system that leaves more than 30 percent residue cover on the soil surface after planting (including no-till) was used on more than 60 percent of the state’s cropland. The percentage of acres under conventional tillage was unchanged, however, the location of those acres shifted. The greatest increase in the use of a no-till system occurred in central South Dakota.

Cropping systems impact the health and productivity of soil. Zimprich says, “This is why NRCS is focusing on helping farmers and ranchers improve the health of their resources. Soil health matters. Healthy soil is the key to the sustainability of our soil and water resources; it’s the key to the productivity, profitability and resiliency of our farms and ranches; and it’s the key to reducing or eliminating any off-site water or air quality impacts of agricultural production.”

Advanced cropping systems include conservation practices such as no-till, diversified cropping rotations and cover crops. The number of counties with more than 75 percent of their cropland acres under a no-till system increased from 4 counties in 2004, to 14 counties in 2013. While the overall acres under no-till increased, in eastern South Dakota, 16 counties decreased their no-till cropland acres.

Zimprich says, “Using cropping systems that don’t disturb the soil, that keep the soil covered, that keep roots growing year-round and that use diverse cover crop mixes and crop rotations are the tools that enable our farmers to improve soil health. Producers across South Dakota like Bill Nelson who farms in Lake County, Jorgensen Farms in Tripp County and Al Miron in Minnehaha County are demonstrating long-term success and profitability with cropping systems that focus on healthy soil.”

To learn more, contact the NRCS staff found in your local USDA Service Center. A summary of the Cropping Systems Inventory is online, under “newsroom.”