South Dakota’s number one industry is farming and ranching. The state is not lacking in industry, but there is no doubt what is number one.
The South Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station System (SDAES) was created in 1887 through the Hatch Act as part of South Dakota’s land-grant institution. Its mission is to conduct research to enhance the quality of life in South Dakota.
There are currently six research stations across the state, as well as on-campus stations including the beef, hog and dairy units. The field east of the Performing Arts Center is also used for research.
Interim Associate Dean/Interim Associate Director Chunyang (C.Y.) Wang said that the College of Agriculture was one of the first colleges at SDSU.
“Research is done to help producers, which in turn should help the economy,” Wang said.
The stations are in every part of the state: northwest, central, northeast, southeast, west and west central. They span the state in order to reach all of South Dakota’s producers.
“You can’t believe the difference between east and west,” Wang said. “Every part of the state is different.”
Wang said the stations can be utilized for other purposes, as they are meant for people to teach and learn, discover research, and engage in extension services.
“The three areas work together,” Wang said.
Professors in the College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences and extension specialists head up many of the studies. Results of their studies are published in professional journals and extension publications. Every county in South Dakota has county educators. The county educators and extension specialists work together. Together, they create a more direct way for producers to get more information.
Studies sometimes produce results that farmers and ranchers can use right away, according to Wang.
“That’s great incentive for producers to be there,” Wang said of the field days and open houses that each research station holds annually. “There’s direct interaction, and they can ask direct questions.”
Ron Haigh has been the superintendent of the Cottonwood Range and Livestock Research Station for 15 years. The station, started in 1907, is halfway between Philip and Wall in western South Dakota. This particular station focuses on beef cattle and range resources.
“Beef cattle production is one of the largest economic segments of the West River economy, and we strive to conduct research to benefit the producers,” Haigh said.
Before the 1940s, the focus of the station was on crops and soil research.
As superintendent, Haigh’s duties include the day-to-day management of the station, administration of research projects and general maintenance of the station.
“Purchasing livestock and feed, preparing budgets and inventories and recording research data are some of my specific duties.”
Besides a long list of projects that the Cottonwood station has completed and is working on, the station has been a monitoring site for the National Atmospheric Deposition Program since 1983. In 2004 a Carbon Flux Tower was installed to monitor carbon dioxide and water flux levels.
“We have maintained a National Weather Service site here since 1909 and (we) collect temperature, precipitation, evaporation, and soil temperature daily,” Haigh said.
Haigh said the staff of the SDSU Animal and Range Science Department conducts most of the research.
Wang and Haigh agree that the stations benefit students at SDSU. Students can work on research projects and are hired each summer to assist with projects at the stations
Wang said the stations generate knowledge, which is then used to create better conditions and results for producers, helping the state’s economy.