2016 Crop Tour Preview: South Dakota Returns to Reality

August 18, 2016 02:23 PM
corn crop tour 2015 south dakota

It’s always tough to follow a record breaker.

Last year, South Dakota posted a 159 bpa corn yield, producing almost 800 million bushels of corn and more than 204 million bushels of soybeans with a 46 bpa yield, thanks to perfect growing conditions.

“We’re probably not up to that potential this year,” says Sara Berg, agronomy feed specialist at South Dakota State University Extension.

What’s different? Well, in 2016, the state’s corn and soybean farmers have found themselves fighting localized pockets of drought, some of which have eased and others that have not. Crops went in late, particularly in the southeast corner of the state. ”They had a hard time getting the crop in,” Berg says. “Planting was relatively late in the corn/soybean areas.”

Indeed, 47% of South Dakota’s corn was at the dough stage this week, according to USDA’s Aug. 8 Crop Progress report, putting plant development about 4 percentage points behind the five-year average.

The state’s corn crops aren’t quite in as good shape as other states, either, with just 52% considered good to excellent, compared to the national average of 74% in good to excellent condition.

“You hate to be up in arms about it, but you will see some signs of dryness,” says Berg, who knows how quickly Mother Nature can change her mind. “Last night, we had rainfall in eastern South Dakota.”

On the western side of South Dakota, heat has been the challenge. “We’ve had a lot of days over 100 degrees,” says Chris Graham, an assistant professor at South Dakota State University. “But the rain has been fairly consistent,” particularly in June and July. “it wasn’t big, but it was consistent.”

Soybeans, in contrast, appear to be a just a touch ahead of schedule. According to USDA’s Aug. 8 Crop  Progress report, 78% of South Dakota beans are setting pods, which is 2 percentage points ahead of the five-year average. But like corn, South Dakota soybeans aren’t quite at the same level as others when it comes to crop conditions. Just 56% of soybeans qualified as in good to excellent condition inn that report, compared to the national figure of 72% in good to excellent condition.

Growers have seen some diseases—Goss’ wilt, northern corn blight, white mold, bacterial leaf blight—but nothing significant. Similarly, aphid pressure has been low. “I have heard of very few people spraying,” Berg says.

Overall, it should add up to a substantial, if not history-making, year for South Dakota, which USDA estimates will see a 147 bpa yield for corn and 42 bpa for soybeans. Of course, with December corn futures in the $3.40s on the Chicago Board of Trade, that size of crop can be both good news and bad news “It should be a good solid year for corn, but it’s not going to pencil out very well,” Graham notes, in a sentiment that plenty of farmers would agree with this year.  

AgWeb will be posting a series of previews for the states covered by the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour: Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, South Dakota, Nebraska and Minnesota

Be sure to follow AgWeb’s coverage of Farm Journal Media’s Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour. Watch reports from the field by following Farm Journal Media journalists along for the ride: Alison Rice at @agweb_alison, Ben Potter at @potterben, Chip Flory at @ChipFlory, Brian Grete at @bgrete, and Betsy Jibben at @BetsyJibben. And check AgWeb each evening this week for the day’s freshest summary on what they’re seeing in the field.

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