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SD farmers see big soy, corn potential

FARGO, N.D. — The region’s row crops continue ahead of normal, with small grains harvested mostly weeks ahead of schedule and row crop development generally ahead of five-year averages. Here are two visits from northeast South Dakota, followed by state-by-state National Agricultural Statistics Service updates for the region.

Early bean harvest

WILMOT, S.D. — Bill Whipple and his son, Robert, ranch and farm in the Wilmot, S.D., area. They have corn, soybeans and — for the first time since 2000 — wheat.

“Yes, we’re getting back into a three-crop rotation again,” Bill says, at the end of day of fence-fixing on the farm. “We mostly have a lot of pasture ground.”

They pasture about 1,000 cows and calves, in six bunches, on a three-pasture per summer rotation.

Bill, 70, started no-till farming in 1985 and says this is the best year he’s had for no-till planting, because it was dry.

Rains were splitting and going around the Whipples’ land through mid-August, so the soybeans were showing some stress. Corn looked good, but a bit of moisture would help the test weight. The Whipples reported that soybeans were starting to turn color on Sept. 1.

“I think we’re headed for an early harvest,” Bill says.

In late August, the Whipples replaced some electric fence in a pasture and stretched the lines.

“We just rotated into this pasture with cows this morning,” Bill says. “We’re making sure the electric fence is pretty hot because there’s pretty good corn right next to it. Don’t want the cows getting into it.”

The soybeans looked fair, despite the lack of rain. They’d had some problems with aphids and spider mites.

“We sprayed everything but one field,” Bill says.

Bill has been on the South Dakota Corn Growers and South Dakota Corn Council boards of directors, and was chosen to be South Dakota’s corn representative for the organizations on the board of Northern Plains Nitrogen, planning for a $2.4 billion fertilizer plant in Grand Forks, N.D. Bill says he is pleased to be on the board and says there’s room for two big plants in the fertilizer business.

He’s also pleased that Rob, 42, came back to the farm in April 2014 after a career in the Kansas prison system near Wichita. “I’m enjoying being here, getting back into the farming and ranching,” says Rob, who Bill notes is the fourth generation in the family to operate land that’s been in the family since 1905. A renewed appreciation for the beauty seemed apparent as he left the field with a handful of pasture flowers. Just something for his wife, Heather, he says, with a shrug and a grin.

Beyond, above

SUMMIT, S.D. — Greg Hanson is a second-generation Pioneer Seed representative. His father, Delvin, has been selling with Pioneer for 24 years. Everything is looking good.

“I think we could have some of our best corn crops in a long time,” he says.

“My dad got the dealership when I was in the sixth grade,” Greg says.

Hanson Ag Services Inc. works with about 150 customers and offers seed delivery, chemical and, for the second year, scouting with a drone.

As he scouts a field near Summit, S.D., Greg, 36, says he is exceedingly careful with his drone to make sure there is no crop duster or other obstacle in the area. He offers the drone as a service, and doesn’t charge for it.

“It’s just a way to go above and beyond,” he says, noting at least a handful of other Pioneer dealers in the area are offering similar support to their customers.

One of his customers south of Milbank, for example, got hit by 90 mph winds. Hanson was able to take the drone out and show damage in the middle of the fields.

“When the corn is at that tasseling point, a lot of farmers aren’t going to walk to the middle of the field,” he says.

Also, if farmers are doing side-by-side fertilizer applications, the drone can dramatically show effects.

Pioneer Seed representatives have also been using the Encirca weather stations. Representatives have been encouraging their use for two years, and now more customers are putting the stations on their farms. Farmers pay a monthly fee and get DTN markets and weather, and have an opportunity to look at other Encirca weather stations across the country for things like wind, humidity and rainfall. Hanson says the program offers a decision-making tool for nitrogen application rates. The system is capable of sending alerts to smartphones about excessive rainfall, wind and more.

“I’m excited about it,” Hanson says. “I’m into new technology, and I think Pioneer has found something that’s really, really cool here.”

Here are the weekly NASS crop condition and progress summaries for the four-state region.

South Dakota

Storms on Aug. 20 dumped heavy precipitation on south-central and southeast South Dakota, but there were still 5.8 days suitable for fieldwork. Topsoil moisture is now rated adequate to surplus in 73 percent of the state, with subsoil 71 percent adequate to surplus.

Corn is rated 67 percent good to excellent, and 49 percent was in the dented stage, just ahead of the 47 percent average. Soybeans are 77 percent good to excellent, with leaves dropping at 19 percent, near the 16 percent average.

Spring wheat is 95 percent harvested, ahead of the 90 percent average. Barley is 80 percent harvested, behind the 88 percent average. Sorghum is rated 72 percent good to excellent, with 51 percent changing color, compared with the 58 percent average. Sunflowers are rated 79 percent good to excellent, with 33 percent ray flowers dried, compared with a 31 percent average.

Pasture and range conditions are rated 61 percent good to excellent, with stock water supplies at 77 percent adequate to surplus.

North Dakota 

Temperatures were 2 to 6 degrees above normal in the northwest and 2 to 6 degrees below normal in the southeast. Little rain sped the small grains harvest to a conclusion, while humidity limited the times of day it could be done. Topsoil moisture is 65 percent adequate to surplus, while subsoil is 69 percent adequate to surplus.

Winter wheat is 95 percent harvested. Spring wheat is 85 percent harvested, ahead of the 58 percent average. Durum wheat was rated 79 percent good to excellent, and 63 percent of the crop is harvested, compared with a 36 percent average for this date. Barley is 95 percent harvested, ahead of 69 percent average. Oats are 90 percent harvested, compared with 66 percent average.

Corn condition is 71 percent good to excellent, with 50 percent dented, compared with 34 percent for a five-year average. Soybeans are 68 percent good to excellent, with 31 percent dropping leaves, ahead of an 11 percent average for the date.

Sunflower conditions are 71 percent good to excellent, with 62 percent with ray flowers drying, compared with an average of 41 percent. Flaxseed is 82 percent good to excellent, with 45 percent harvested, compared with 20 percent average.

Dry edible peas were 96 percent harvested, ahead of the 81 percent average. Dry edible beans are 11 percent harvested, compared with 5 percent average, and were rated 59 percent good to excellent. Potatoes were rated 64 percent good to excellent, with 26 percent with vines dry, ahead of the 21 percent average.

Minnesota

Most of the state had cool, dry conditions for the week before the Aug. 31 report. There were 5.3 days suitable for fieldwork, and most are haying or chopping corn for silage. Topsoil and subsoil both were rated 91 percent adequate to surplus.

Corn is rated 88 percent good to excellent, with 65 percent dented, up from the 49 percent average. Soybeans are 79 percent good to excellent, with 27 percent turning color, up from the 17 percent average for the date. About 5 percent of the corn for silage was harvested, compared with a 16 percent average for the date.

Potatoes were 92 percent rated good to excellent, with 24 percent harvested, up from the 21 percent average.

Spring wheat is 95 percent harvested, compared with a 78 percent average, and other small grains are all nearly harvested. Sugar beets are 6 percent harvested, compared with a 1 percent average.

Montana

Warm, dry, smoky weather produced some thunderstorms and areas of damaging hail. Survey reporters say more moisture is needed to ensure good winter wheat seeding conditions. Small grains harvest is speeding to the end, with 93 percent of barley, 68 percent of durum wheat, 77 percent of oats and 84 percent of spring wheat harvested.

Pulse crops are being harvested weeks ahead of normal. Lentils are 91 percent harvested, compared with the 79 percent five-year average. Pasture and range declined because of hot, dry weather with only 21 percent rated good to excellent, compared with a 43 percent average. Ranchers are removing livestock off summer ranges ahead of schedule, with 17 percent of cattle and 17 percent of sheep moved, compared with five-year averages of 8 percent and 10 percent, respectively.

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