Crops race to maturity across South Dakota

Michelle Rook
Forum News Service

MITCHELL, S.D. — 2019 has been a disastrous crop season for South Dakota farmers. The state led the nation in prevented planting acres this spring at a record 4 million-plus acres because of heavy snows this winter and relentless spring rain and flooding.

Gary Duffy farms near Oldham and says he only got a third of his intended crop planted.

“Total for both corn and beans about 35% of our crop was planted this year,” he says. “We’re not sure whether we did the right thing by doing that, but so be it.”

Hitchcock farmer Jeff Gatzke says they didn’t fare much better during this spring’s planting season. “We had about 50% prevent plant on our ground this year. We have never had this much prevent plant. We tried to get in just about every acre we could possible, but it was a real struggle.”

However, the largest amount of prevented plant was in the southeast. Jeff Spieler, Dekalb/Asgrow technical agronomist says, “It goes anywhere from you know 20, 30% prevent plant acres in areas to up to 70, 80% and higher.”

Most of the corn that did get planted was after June 1 and now in a race to maturity. The USDA crop progress reports showed as of Sunday, Sept. 1, only 1% of the crop was dented, which is well behind the 53% five-year average.

Doug Noem, of Bryant, says the maturity of their crops is lagging. “You know we’re 30 days behind normal, we think, or 25 anyway.”

Spieler says agronomically that makes even a normal frost date a concern for much of the state. “If we get that frost in early October, you know, October 1, in that neighborhood, you know we’re going to have some corn that isn’t going to be black layered yet,” he says.

Soybean development is in better shape than the corn, with 85% of the crop setting pods, just 12% behind normal. However, the crop is still at the mercy of the first frost date. Bob Metz farms near Peever, where he says they were fortunate to get most of the crop seeded. However, his growing season is always shorter in the northeastern part of the state. “If we get frost even the second week of September, I don’t know if there will be much to even harvest,” he says.

As far as yield prospects, with the delayed crops, the top end yield has been taken off both corn and soybeans.

“Yield potential for those acres right out of the chute is probably 20% to 35% off what we would normally expect just from a planting date,” Spieler says.

Volga farmer Scott VanderWal says that will be the case in his operation. “We’ve told the banker you probably better figure on 150 or 160 bushels per acre, which is down 50 bushels from where we were the last two years.”

Gatzke says the corn they did get planted caught some heavy rain, from 8 to 9 inches, the early part of August and now that corn has turned brown. So he is just hoping they can get enough of a crop for their livestock.

“If we can get 120, 130 on corn I would be very happy, but all of our corn goes to feed so we’re going to get as much of that as we can,” he says.

Jeff Thompson farms just north of Sioux Falls near Colton, N.D., and is also president of the South Dakota Soybean Association. He had near record soybean yields last year, but is much less optimistic for this fall on his farm and for the entire state. “Average, you know, I’m guessing if I can get 40 I’ll probably be happy on most of my acres.”

And Duffy agrees. “We don’t know on the beans — 30, 35.”

Beyond the lagging maturity, corn also is very uneven, so farmers anticipate high moisture levels and increased grain drying. Many have already started lining up propane for this fall, another cost they didn’t need in an already disastrous season.