Habitat & Conservation  |  05/10/2022

Making Every Acre Count in South Dakota

Lands enrolled in the Every Acre Counts Program in South Dakota benefit both producers and wildlife by removing non-profitable acres from production and putting them into habitat.

PF on the Landscape in South Dakota

Story by Cristin Weber, Precision Ag and Conservation SpecialistPhoto by John Wolthuizen

Devoting resources, creating new partnerships and recognizing potential impact on marginal lands across the state of South Dakota is what created the Every Acre Counts Program. South Dakota State University, Second Century Habitat Fund, Pheasants Forever, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, South Dakota Corn and Purina are the key founders of the program. The common focus from this seemingly diverse group is the focus on land stewardship. 

Every Acre Counts strives to improve the farm profitability, diversity and ecosystem benefits of agriculture by using precision technologies to empower producers to help make informed management decisions for every acre of their operations. To achieve that, precision data from the grower is transferred to profitability software along with production input costs, crop market price and variable rate fertilizer or seeding maps available. When all the data is collected, a report is generated to show the producer profitability throughout the field and see it as an acre-by-acre profit/loss map instead of an averaged field-by-field representation. Conservation examples are layered on to show what could happen to the field’s profit, expense reduction and Return on Investment (ROI) if marginal lands were removed from production and enrolled into CRP, for example. 

Every Acre Counts has had one year of boots on the ground and has seen great success. To date, more than 41,000 acres have been enrolled for analysis from 24 different operators. On average 8 percent of each field is operating at a loss, and we are seeing about 6 percent of the land analyzed being put back into habitat! 

Conversations in the field have been just as exciting to see and hear. Producers are planning soil health improvement practices such as adding in cover crops, incorporating livestock, and putting small grains back into their rotations. 

It was all made possible through the collaboration and commitment of our partners to providing the farmers of South Dakota a new way to utilize their precision data to make an impact on their operation and improve the natural resources across the state. Conservation and agriculture can and do work together in South Dakota.

This story originally appeared in the 2022 Spring Issue of the Pheasants Forever Journal. If you enjoyed it and would like to be the first to read more great upland content like this, become a Pheasants Forever member today!