The Dakota Lakes Research Farm is a cooperative effort between South Dakota State University and the Dakota Lakes Research Farm Corporation, a not-for-profit corporation established by area farmers. This group owns the land, buildings, and other fixed assets. They work with the manager in prioritizing research projects and planning capital improvements. The funds needed to operate the research program at the center come from three main sources. They are provided by SDSU in several direct and indirect forms; some come from grants funded primarily through commodity checkoff programs; and the remaining resources are generated from profits stemming from the production enterprise at the DLRF. The production enterprise is managed so that the research program is optimized. That is the main purpose of the farm. Within this constraint, the goal is to make as much money as possible on the production enterprise and spend all of this money on research projects, facility improvements, and equipment purchases and upgrades.
At the present time the operation consists of 3 quarters of land at the Main Station and 360 acres of land located at the North Unit. This land is along the East side of Canning Road approximately 4 miles North of the Main Station. The North Unit was purchased in 2000 to provide “West River” soils (Opal and Promise) for research purposes. During the 1990’s this was done by renting land west of the Missouri River from a private landowner. This parcel was known as the Wheat Commission Rotation Study site. All of this land is and has been farmed without tillage. We have been exclusively no-till since the Station was started in 1990. The main station is about evenly split between irrigated and dryland while the off-station site(s) are dryland.
The station hosts numerous small plot studies by scientists from the main University campus. These trials allow testing of large numbers of treatments. The best of these treatments often receive another level of scrutiny when they are evaluated on a "production scale". This means that field size equipment is utilized with all harvest results being weighed in a 300 bu. weigh cart. Two tractors, one drill, one row crop planter, one sprayer, and one combine are used for all field work. The tractors are 135 and 105 h.p. This equipment could farm at least 2,500 acres if all of our land was in the production enterprise (no research) and we maintained our present crop mix.
We make no pretense at having all the answers for producers interested in no-till. We do hope that our experience and success at developing no-till farming systems will be a benefit. We are confident that many of the principles which we utilize may be adaptable for benefit in many areas.