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Published October 01, 2008, 12:00 AM

S.D. sees record wheat production in 2008

In the ever-shifting world of agriculture, wheat producers in the Dakotas this year are enjoying record harvests. “Wheat,” said Davison County Extension Educator John Cairns, “has been a real shining star.”

By: Austin Kaus, The Daily Republic

In the ever-shifting world of agriculture, wheat producers in the Dakotas this year are enjoying record harvests.

“Wheat,” said Davison County Extension Educator John Cairns, “has been a real shining star.”

The United States Department of Agriculture on Tuesday estimated South Dakota’s spring wheat production at 68.4 million bushels, a 31 percent increase from last year. It’s the second-highest level since 1996, showing numbers that haven’t been seen since the 71.9 million-bushel harvest of 2004.

South Dakota’s crop of winter wheat — traditionally the bigger wheat crop — was even better, setting records for production, at 104 million bushels, and average yield, at 55 bushels per acre. The numbers helped lead to a South Dakota record for production of all wheat, at 172.5 million bushels. The figure is up 17 percent from last year’s record

Cairns attributes the numbers to ideal weather conditions, including timely rains.

“The nice thing about wheat is most of it is growing during non-droughty periods,” he said. “You put it in the fall … and it’s got the low-demand climate all through the winter and early spring.”

Both Cairns and Randy Englund, executive director of the South Dakota Wheat Commission, said strong wheat prices are helping contribute to producers’ positive feelings about the crops.

“Fortunately, it was in a year when we had pretty good prices,” Englund said.

Industry officials have described the harvests in both South Dakota and North Dakota as phenomenal in some areas.

“It’s amazing we got as much out of this year as we did,” said Neal Fisher, administrator of the North Dakota Wheat Commission. “(Spring wheat) yields were not good to the west. Apparently … that’s been offset by much better conditions in the east.”

The USDA on Tuesday estimated North Dakota’s spring wheat production at 246 million bushels, up 5 percent from last year and the highest level since the 2003 crop of 253 million bushels. The 2008 figure also is the second-highest since 1996, according to USDA data.

South Dakota’s average spring wheat yield was 45 bushels per acre, up 6 bushels from 2007. In North Dakota, the average spring wheat yield was 38.5 bushels per acre, up 2.5 bushels, though some yields in the east were double that or more.

Fisher attributed the “phenomenal” yields in eastern North Dakota to a combination of factors, including good growing conditions, lack of disease, and better plant varieties and management techniques.

Some weren’t so fortunate, particularly in western North Dakota and northwestern South Dakota, where producers battled dry conditions.

— The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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