By SARAH REINECKE

The Argus Leader via Associated Press

BROOKINGS, S.D. (AP) -- By next year, South Dakota's farmers might first click a mouse before starting their tractors.

The state's farmers and ranchers soon will have easy access to everything from expert-based blogs to market reports, libraries of information and weather forecasts in one spot through the development of an Internet information system.

The system, called iGrow, is the first project of its kind of this scale, said Barry Dunn, dean of the College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences at South Dakota State University.

IGrow will be launched in January.

"It's a very sincere effort to serve our farmers and ranchers at a higher and more sophisticated level," said Dunn, co-creator of the site.

He and Emery Tschetter, assistant director for marketing and accountability at SDSU, came up with the idea for the site last January and started work in June. Dunn said iGrow is a necessary addition to give farmers and ranchers in South Dakota "reliable, ethical and unbiased" information online.

SDSU crop scientist Gregg Carlson said iGrow will make it simple and easy for producers to get the information they need.

"We are in the information age. The decisions we make are becoming more and more information intense," Carlson said. "Our Internet presence has not been the best in the world. I'm optimistic we're going to create something that's very useful."

Dunn said the site will have several capabilities. Examples include enabling farmers and ranchers to interact with the team of scientists at SDSU through an expert-based blog, and giving them access to a library of information, profit calculators, up-to-date market information and zip-code specific weather forecasts.

Much of the work is complete, but there's still a long way to go before the site is ready next year, Dunn said. A few dozen farmers and ranchers will have access to a trial version of iGrow this fall, he said.

Dunn said the site will not sell advertising and will be a part of the university's Cooperative Extension Service.

"We want to protect our integrity and make sure that comes across to our farmers and ranchers," he said.

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Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

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