Paul O. Johnson Retires After Dedicated Career in SDSU Extension


Brookings, S.D. – Paul O. Johnson, SDSU Extension Weed Science Coordinator and Northeast Research Farm Coordinator, is retiring after a dedicated 33-year career supporting the people of South Dakota in his role at SDSU Extension.

Originally from Hammer, South Dakota, Johnson attended South Dakota State University and completed his bachelor’s degree in agronomy and general agriculture in 1979. After receiving his undergraduate degree, Johnson then went on to obtain his master’s degree in agronomy from SDSU in 1983.

While attending SDSU and continuing for a short time after his education, Johnson farmed before accepting his first position in SDSU Extension as the integrated pest management coordinator in 1984. He worked in this position until briefly stepping away from Extension to work as the agronomy coordinator at AgFirst Farmer’s Cooperative in Brookings, South Dakota in 1996.

Johnson returned to SDSU Extension in 2001 as an agronomy Extension educator. In 2011, he became an Extension agronomy field specialist before beginning his current position as the SDSU Extension Weed Science Coordinator in 2014. In 2018, he added the Northeast Research Farm Director to his list of responsibilities.

Throughout his time in Extension, Johnson conducted research on agronomy and weed control practices, sharing that information with farmers and homeowners through outreach meetings held in every county across the state. He has also authored and co-authored several research publications for SDSU Extension, including the 525 Weed Control fact sheet series.

Johnson’s extensive background in weed science and his coordination of the SDSU herbicide research trials provided valuable insight to the effectiveness of herbicides used in many high value South Dakota crops.

“I’ve enjoyed the research we’ve done and being able to provide that information to farmers,” said Johnson. “There is so much variety within this position and you’re never doing the same thing for any length of time. There’s always challenges and opportunities to do new things.”

Outside of his Extension responsibilities, Johnson held professional leadership roles serving as the president and vice-president of the South Dakota Agricultural Extension Professionals, and president and vice-president of the Brookings Chamber Agricultural Committee. He was also an active member of the Weed Science Society of America, North Central Weed Society, and Western Society of Weed Science organizations.

During his career, Johnson received many awards and honors including the 2022 Excellence in Teaching and 2008 Outstanding Extension Educator Awards from the South Dakota Weed and Pest Association, the 2019 Excellence in Extension Award and 2009 Excellence in Extension Award from SDSU Extension, 2012 Distinguished Service Award and 2009 Achievement Service Award from the National Association of County Agricultural Agents, and the South Dakota Aviation Association Lifetime Member Award.

“Paul provided high quality leadership to the weed extension program during his tenure at SDSU,” said Alexander Smart, professor in the Department of Natural Resource Management and SDSU Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources Senior Program Leader. “He was recognized as a trusted source of information and influencer in the ag industry. Paul’s expertise will be sorely missed.”

When asked what he will miss the most about working in Extension, Johnson did not hesitate to answer, “I will miss the dedicated and hardworking producers and people at SDSU. It’s been a pleasure to play a part in helping farmers become more profitable.”