PIERRE, S.D. - Winter wheat harvest is wrapping up in South Dakota and with spring wheat harvest more than a third done, producers are reporting much better results than 2017.
"Once we get outside of the areas that were impacted by the hail on the winter wheat, most of the other reports have been very favorable," says Reid Christopherson, South Dakota Wheat Commission executive director.
Christopherson says they were fortunate to have a light disease year. "We're hearing reports anywhere from 50 to 60 bushels per acre and even 70 to 80 plus," he says. Those higher yield reports were from producers around Onida, Eagle Butte and Presho. He says the test weights on winter wheat ran generally around 60 pounds. Protein levels have also been high this year, ranging from 11 percent up to 14 percent, which is being reflected in the higher cash market.
Crop watcher Andy Rankin started harvesting winter wheat July 11 in the Draper area. Early average yields were at 60 to 70 bushels per acre, with a test weight of 63 pounds per bushel and protein between 11.5 to 12 percent. "It is some of the best wheat we've had in a while," Rankin says.
On July 21 Chet Edinger reported via Twitter he had fields around the Mount Vernon area that were running at 60 pound test weights, with 13.6 percent protein and 12.6 percent moisture.
Acreage for winter wheat will be up in South Dakota from last year's drought-stricken crop. "The comparison to last year is just tremendous because we lost so much of our crop due to the drought last year," Christopherson says. He says that's because the increased forage demand caused many producers to roll up acres for cattle feed instead of for grain. "We should still end up probably 800,000 acres plus on a total harvest winter wheat, but that is still half of what we might have seen as recently as four years ago," he says.
Spring wheat acreage will see the same type of trend in 2018 as moisture levels were more adequate during the season and crop conditions ran well above year-ago levels. "Spring wheat I think is going to come in stronger because we had a pretty good survival on that," Christopherson says. "We'll probably be at about 1 million acres." He says that is still down from the four-year average, but again much higher than 2017.
Early harvest results on the spring wheat crop in South Dakota have generally been favorable. According to Christopherson, "Some of the early test weights and proteins that I've heard have been on par with what we would expect at 14 percent." Of course, yield is a little lighter typically with spring wheat, hearing some early reports of 40s, and still waiting to hear a little bit wider range of reports on the harvest."
Christopherson says South Dakota's spring wheat yield results match up pretty close to recent crop ratings. That is unlike North Dakota where the early yield results were disappointing compared to historically high spring wheat crop ratings during the season. He says disease has also been fairly light. "We have some ergot in spring wheat fields, but not large amounts," He says producers will be able to manage the levels and segregate those bushels so they won't get docked at the elevator.
Farmers are also seeing better prices as the harvest progresses due to global production cuts in major growing areas like Ukraine, the European Union and Australia. This has improved the prices for all classes of wheat and provided a little better marketing opportunity for farmers. "The producers that I have talked to have felt that they may be at a breakeven point, but the exact margin is going to depend on their marketing strategy and how they've chose to store or do direct sale or delayed pricing on that crop," Christopherson says.
For much of the last year, the shortage of hard red spring wheat has created a price premium for the crop over hard red winter wheat and that was reflected in the higher prices. However, he says prices for winter wheat and spring wheat have come together into harvest and there are cases where the cash price in central South Dakota for winter wheat has moved ahead of spring wheat.