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Commission expects fewer acres of winter wheat in SD

PIERRE, S.D. — South Dakota producers planted about 910,000 acres to winter wheat in fall 2016. That was down 23 percent from 2015. Even less appears to have been put in the ground this fall, members of state government's Wheat Commission said Monday.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture mailed crop surveys to farmers last month. The South Dakota panel said producers have been increasingly shifting from winter wheat into somewhat more spring wheat but much more so into corn and soybeans.

One purpose of winter wheat was to give farmers more days to work their land by planting in the fall so spring could be spent putting in other crops.

"The whole reason behind winter wheat in the first place is lost," commissioner Tregg Cronin of Gettysburg said. He described winter wheat as "a one-way train going away."

South Dakota producers harvested 520,000 acres of winter wheat last summer. That was the smallest since 370,000 acres in 2001. The production of 20.8 million bushes was down 67 percent from 2015 and the least since 2002.

Farmers planted 970,000 acres of spring wheat this year in South Dakota, a 10 percent reduction. They harvested 670,000 acres, the fewest since 1936, when 550,000 acres went from fields of gold to bins and mills.

Production from spring wheat was 20.8 million bushels this year in South Dakota too.

Nearly all of the winter wheat planted this fall has emerged.

"Acres are down but the quality is good," commissioner Chet Edinger of Mitchell, S.D., said.

Chairman Clint Vanneman, a producer from the Ideal, S.D., area, said he intends to try more spring wheat come February or March. "Winter wheat is just a harder crop. It takes more management. Corn and beans are more easy," Vanneman said.