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SDSU Student Prepares to Share His Story
South Dakota Ag Connection - 02/13/2018

Passionate about farming and hunting, South Dakota State University student Cole Berkley looks forward to sharing why he wants to farm and why he hunts at the Precision Agriculture Workshop at the 2018 National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic.

Agricultural producers and pheasant enthusiasts are invited to learn how cutting-edge farming practices can work to provide more income while enhancing habitat. The sessions will take place on Feb. 16 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls.

The conference is designed for farmers, agronomists, precision specialists and ag lenders. Precision approaches put on-farm data to work to maximize profits while providing environmental benefits.

Berkley is a junior Precision Agriculture and Agronomy double-major at SDSU. His family farms in northern South Dakota near Mellette where they utilize precision agriculture techniques.

"Outside of the agriculture community, many people don't realize what precision ag is and why it's important to farmers who need a return on investment," Berkley said. "Drones do much more for agriculture than take photos. They are an important tool as they show vegetation throughout the year. By examining the aerial shots, farmers can identify spots where production is poor. From the images, farmers make decisions about how to handle their land and decide if it should be in the Conservation Reserve Program or maybe planted to grass, for example."

Those who farm and those who hunt are both concerned about the shrinking amount of land available, Berkley said. Some land has been handed down generation to generation. There is a need to maintain and improve the soil that is there. Once it is lost to unwise practices, it's hard to put it back to the way it was.

Farmers have to make tough choices as they deal with the high prices for new technology and low commodity prices. The precision tools are changing the face of farming. Decisions are made acre by acre by using multi-hybrid planters, variable rate technology in applying fertilizer and seed, and section control on planters. It's important for sportsmen to see these investments are ways farmers balance making money with their concern for the environment.

Efforts to improve soil health are a big part of precision agriculture. Planting cover crops enriches the soil and is great for wildlife, especially deer and pheasants. He shared, "We leave rows of corn along the tree belts to provide habitat. The cover crops improve the integrity of the soil and hold the soil structure in place, which benefits the habitat."

"I want people to enjoy the memories they've made while hunting, and enjoy what they have in life," Berkley said. "We appreciate the hunters who have been coming to our land from Iowa for the last 20 years. They are friends who have turned into extended family. The experiences we share through hunting provides us bonds that last a lifetime."

"I'll never forget when I shot my first buck," Berkley said. "It was my first time doing everything by myself. I still remember all the smiles, high-fives, and hugs as people congratulated me. That sticks with you. Being able to share that experience with others continues to remind me of why I hunt. I want those who are younger than me to be able to experience that as well and that is why I want to preserve opportunities on the land that we love."

The 2018 Precision Ag Workshop is being held in conjunction with 2018 National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic being held in Sioux Falls.

Event registration is $35 and includes a one-year Pheasants Forever membership, lunch, entry for a Henry Golden Boy Farmer Edition Rifle, and daily admission to the 2018 National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic show floor.

The event will include a panel of Midwest producers and Precision professionals, SDSU President Barry Dunn, and Howard Vincent, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever President and CEO.

Learn more at the Pheasants Forever website at ww.pheasantsforever.org/Pheasant-Fest.aspx.

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