Farmland occupied 17.7 million hectares (43.7 million acres), or 91 percent, of the state’s land area in 2008. Crops were grown on 44 percent of the farmland, and range land covers most of the rest. Agricultural activities in South Dakota are not limited to land classified as farmland. Seasonal grazing land in western South Dakota is leased by ranchers from the federal government. Of the total farm income in the state, 44 percent came from the sale of crops in 2006. Livestock products, especially beef cattle, account for the rest. Of the 31,300 farms in the state in 2008, 70 percent had annual sales of more than $10,000, a high ratio relative to most other states.
The principal sources of crop income are soybeans, corn, wheat, hay, sunflower seeds, oats, and sorghum. Corn, hay, soybeans, and wheat occupied similar amounts of acreage in the early 2000s.
Corn and soybeans lead all other crops in income generated. Corn is widely grown in the moister eastern and central sections of the state. Nearly all the corn is hybrid corn that has been specially bred to withstand occasional drought conditions. It is used mainly for livestock feed. Soybeans increased dramatically in economic importance during the 1990s, especially in eastern sections of the state. Wheat tends to be the first choice of farmers in areas that are too dry for corn or soybeans. It is the chief crop in the north central areas of the state. It is also sometimes grown in drier areas farther west. Much of the wheat is spring wheat, planted in the spring and harvested in late summer. Hay (including alfalfa and wild hay) is grown throughout much of the state.
Most hay is used as livestock feed on the farms where it is grown. Other crops grown in rotation with wheat, soybeans, and corn include oats, flax (for flaxseed), barley, sorghum, and rye.
The sale of livestock accounted for 56 percent of all farm income in 2006. Cattle and calves are the state’s leading agricultural product, typically generating one-third of all farm income in a given year. Some cattle are raised in the west and many more in the eastern and central sections. Hog raising and dairying and poultry farming are also important agricultural activities in the east. Northwestern South Dakota is one of the nation’s leading sheep-raising areas.
Too dry and rough for extensive crop farming, western South Dakota is primarily a region of large sheep and cattle ranches. Farther east, ranching is often combined with wheat farming, the wheat crop proving more profitable than ranching in most wet years and the cattle providing an alternate source of income in periods of severe drought. Wheat farming predominates in still more humid areas in north central South Dakota. In central South Dakota irrigated corn has become of some importance. Still farther east, the climate is humid enough to permit a more varied and profitable type of agriculture and corn is a major crop. Together with soybeans, oats, and other crops, it is fed to livestock, which are sold for cash. "South Dakota" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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