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Nurturing the Future of Agriculture

Brian Otteson
Brian Otteson - Director, NDSU Agronomy Seed Farm

Insights from Brian Otteson and the NDSU Agronomy Seed Farm

In a discussion with Brian Otteson, Director of the NDSU Agronomy Seed Farm, we explored the innovative landscape of agriculture in North Dakota. Otteson, with his extensive background in seed production and its crucial role within agricultural research, provides a unique perspective on the current and future trends in crop nutrition, seed genetics, and soil health. When looking at NDSU’s agriculture landscape, its range of services is comparable to an umbrella, according to Otteson. NDSU Agriculture offers three divisions; NDSU Extension (getting ag-related messages out), the College of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Natural Resources (CAFSNR), and the ND Agriculture Experiment Station (the research side which Otteson and the Agronomy Seed Farm fall under).

The Agronomy Seed Farm is a standalone unit, according to Otteson. “We’re not a research center as we also specialize in seed production, but we do get grouped in with research centers across the state. Whereas they have more extension and research people located there, we focus on seed production and exploring new crop varieties.” They grow spring wheat, barley, oats, soybeans, and more for seed production. Furthermore, they work closely with plant breeders and have breeding nurseries in Casselton, ND

Did You Know?

The Seed Farm has always been 100% self-supportive through seed sales since its setup in 1950, including salaries, equipment, land, and any other expenses. “Even though we’re a state agency, we don’t use any state tax dollars. We’re unique within the NDSU system in that we’re so selfsupportive. The people who set up the Seed Farm back in the late 1940s and early 1950s were forward-thinking to set it up that way and push for it to be so self-supportive, which is something that we’ve always been proud of.”

– Brian Otteson

NDSU is a large organization with many experts on board, and I’m just one person who focuses on seed production. I encourage people to reach out to their extension agents or specialists with any questions, as we have some great people on board. As far as seed production, NDSU has been breeding crop varieties for well over 100 years. I also encourage producers to reach out and access the information that NDSU has put out regarding crop varieties and production.”

– Brian Otteson

Q&A with Brian Otteson

Q: You’ve mentioned your involvement in research. What are some of the latest trends in research that you’ve been seeing that may benefit growers?

A: The latest trend I’ve seen is the use of drones, robotics, and collecting field data in the research plots. I’ve noticed most plant breeding programs have switched to using drones, small robots, and other devices that scan their plots and do the work that used to have to be done by hand. Historically, plant breeders would walk through the fields with a clipboard and notebook, and take notes on plant heights and other characteristics. Now, much of that is done electronically. One of the biggest shifts in plant breeding has been adapting new technologies to ease the workload.

Everybody’s looking for ways to speed up the plant breeding process. Plant breeders are working with the latest and greatest technology on the genetic side to speed up how quickly a variety is released. It typically takes 10 years but that can be sped up slightly with some of the newer technologies. Lastly, I’ve seen a shift toward experimenting with new crops. Several researchers are looking for new crops to bring into the area with NDSU that may help the farmer, but it takes a while to get it into the marketplace, as there has to be a viable market for it and guidance on how to use it.

Q: Are any external forces across the globe impacting this work in our backyards for you?

A: Whether it’s the war in Ukraine or unrest in other parts of the world where wheat is grown, those actions have a ripple effect on world markets. At the agronomy seed farm, one of our major crops is hard-ridge spring wheat, and spring wheat markets have been greatly affected by these events.

Q: Looking ahead, what should growers prepare for regarding the crop nutrition and soil health landscape?

A: Prepare for new technology, as it’s the biggest driving force nowadays. It’s how we handle everything from seed genetics to customer paperwork, to seed sales and advertising. We’ve seen huge advancements in farm machinery between new technology and equipment, along with researchers utilizing new technologies to help speed up processes. We’re poised to step up in terms of ag research and start utilizing some of these new technologies to help the research people get their job done and hope others follow suit. Grand Farm also has a lot of a lot of work going on this year, and they’re going to be looking at new technologies as well. NDSU will partner on some of those projects, whether it be drones or other technology, so keep an eye out for what Grand Farm is doing.

“The Agronomy Seed Farm (ASF) produces foundation seed for North Dakota seed producers and cooperates in research efforts of the ND Agricultural Experiment Station scientists located at the main station in Fargo. Research and outreach efforts focus on the evaluation and development of new crop varieties, and providing data on varieties grown under eastern North Dakota growing conditions.”

– NDSU Agronomy Seed Farm Website

Find NDSU Agronomy Seed Farm on:
[email protected]
Facebook | /AgronomySeedFarm
15449 37th St SE Casselton, ND 58012

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