DEVILS LAKE, N.D. – More farmers are adopting precision farming practices on their farm as a way to bring higher efficiencies to their operation. With the use of this technology comes the need for training support staff and such a program is available at the Lake Region State College in Devils Lake.

Their Precision Agriculture program offers core classes in basic agronomy and crop production, soils and soil fertility, precision technology, data analysis; GIS and extensive lab and hands on training. This hands on training is something many other programs don’t offer. This course is offered through the Dakota Precision Ag Center at Lake Region State College (LRSC) and gives students a chance to practice precision ag practices on 40 acres of land in a course designated as the DPAC 40.

“We have 40 acres of land that students can write prescriptions for, conduct oil and crop sampling, configure variable application rates for fall fertilizer – it’s a place where students can experience the whole growing cycle. So much of what we do here is thanks to that 40 acres of crop,” said  Preston Sundeen, director and faculty for the Precision Ag program at the college.

“The Precision Ag program at LRSC is so much more than classroom activities and theory. We put the kids in the simulators, labs, greenhouses and in the fields to experience every aspect of raising crops,” Sundeen continued. “The more we can expose students to all aspects of precision agriculture, the better prepared they are for their future careers.”

This unique program was made possible thanks to the support from the regional Cenex Harvest States (CHS) network. Local CHS representatives worked with LRSC Precision Ag students and faculty throughout the year from planning, field preparation, planting, observing, chemical application and harvest. The Precision Ag program was also able to work with test plots throughout the region in a number of communities in the northeastern part of the state.

“The precision program at Lake Region State College shows the dedication to agriculture and CHS values the opportunity to help students learn for the future of agriculture,” said Jeremy Safranski, CHS sales manager.

“Raising a crop on the DPAC 40 gave students real-life experience and a live learning lab and Cenex Harvest States helped make it a reality, Sundeen added.

According to Safranski, CHS is committed to strong community ties and welcomes the opportunity to advance ag education. An example of that was this past fall’s harvest project on the land dedicated to the precision ag training – the students were presented with a less than textbook scenario at harvest time and instead were presented with real-life challenges.

Harvest, according to Sundeen, became a race against the clock and Mother Nature. As snow entered the forecast the students learned about beating the weather. Students also handled the pressure of running low on storage. With trucks full, the last load was put into the precision ag program’s shop floor with tables acting as bunkers to keep the pile of corn in one spot.

These opportunities along with the internship give students an advantage when heading into the workforce, Sundeen noted.

Students enrolled in the Precision Agriculture program earn an Associate of Applied Science degree from the two-year program. Four semesters of study are required and the summer period between the second and third semester calls for precision agriculture field experience as part of the course work for the degree.

Students, faculty and those involved in the ag industry realize the importance of a partnership that has been foraged between LRSC and CHS in 2017.

“This was a great mutual commitment. The college has helped students learn, we have had the college help CHS staff learn as well as our farmer owners through the help of accurate innovation plots and seed trial plots,” Safranski said.   

All in all, the partnership proved to be a big benefit to student learning.

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