AGAR, S.D. — Wheat seeding was just getting started on March 31, 2021, on Joachim Farms near Agar, S.D. A week later they’d seeded nine quarters.

On that first day in the field, Justin Joachim, 37, took time to chat after he’d put variable-rate prescriptions into his on-board computer on one of two planters.

Justin Joachim, 37, faces five screens as he adjusts the variable-rate seeding equipment just before starting spring wheat planting, March 31, 2021, for oachim Farms at Agar, S.D.  Photo taken March 31, 2021, at Agar, S.D. Mikkel Pates / Agweek
Justin Joachim, 37, faces five screens as he adjusts the variable-rate seeding equipment just before starting spring wheat planting, March 31, 2021, for oachim Farms at Agar, S.D. Photo taken March 31, 2021, at Agar, S.D. Mikkel Pates / Agweek

Justin, 37, farms with his brother, Jared, 34. Both live at Gettysburg and their father, Doug, 67, is based at Agar, a farming and ranching town of about 76 in Sully County, S.D.

They and their colleagues all bring strengths. Justin was a 2004 ag business graduate of South Dakota State University in Brookings. Jared graduated from Lake Area Technical College at Watertown, S.D., in diesel mechanics.

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The family plants winter wheat, spring wheat, corn, sunflowers and soybeans.

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041221.AG.CropStopAgarSD01.jpg
Justin Joachim, 37,  farms with his brother, Jared, 34, both of Gettysburg, S.D., farm with their father, Doug, 67, at the headquarters for Joachim Farms near Agar, S.D Photo taken March 31, 2021, at Agar, S.D. Mikkel Pates / Agweek
041221.AG.CropStopAgarSD01.jpg Justin Joachim, 37, farms with his brother, Jared, 34, both of Gettysburg, S.D., farm with their father, Doug, 67, at the headquarters for Joachim Farms near Agar, S.D Photo taken March 31, 2021, at Agar, S.D. Mikkel Pates / Agweek

Together, the three Joachim households farm around 15,000 acres, including about 4,200 acres of spring wheat — “give or take.”

The Joachims had expected to start with spring wheat on Monday, March 29, 2021, but held back because of punishing winds blowing 40 mph-plus. As of April 5, they’d planted nine spring wheat quarters — about 1,440 acres — or about a third of what they expect to put in.

Additionally, the Joachims have about 3,000 acres of winter wheat, down somewhat from previous years.

“We had a fair amount of (prevented planting insurance) from 2020, and most of that is planted to winter wheat. That stuff looks pretty good,” he said, noting it came out of dormancy fairly well.

The Joachim Farms crew gets set to plant spring wheat on a field just north of Agar, S.D., on March 31, 2021. Photo taken March 31, 2021, at Agar, S.D. Mikkel Pates / Agweek
The Joachim Farms crew gets set to plant spring wheat on a field just north of Agar, S.D., on March 31, 2021. Photo taken March 31, 2021, at Agar, S.D. Mikkel Pates / Agweek

Dry and drying

The National Agricultural Statistics Service on March 28, 2021, rated the state’s moisture situation as 22% very short, 44% short and 34% adequate, and 0% surplus. Subsoil moisture was rated 20% very short, 55% short, 25% adequate and 0% surplus.

Michael Hagny and Kenny Hawkinson fills and calibrates a seeding system as they fill a cart with seed while planting with  Joachim Farms of Agar, S.D., on March 31, 2021.  Photo taken March 31, 2021, at Agar, S.D. Mikkel Pates / Agweek
Michael Hagny and Kenny Hawkinson fills and calibrates a seeding system as they fill a cart with seed while planting with Joachim Farms of Agar, S.D., on March 31, 2021. Photo taken March 31, 2021, at Agar, S.D. Mikkel Pates / Agweek

On March 29, 2021, temperatures hit the 70s and winds whipping at 40 mph to 50 mph with gusts to 70 mph and better. On April 5, the moisture picture had deteriorated. Topsoil moisture ratings had deteriorated to 25% very short, 43% short, 32% adequate. Subsoil moisture declined to 25% very short, 48% short, 27% adequate.

With a third of their spring wheat in the ground, the Joachims were ahead of the 11% state average, in the NASS report, and above the 4% five-year average for the date.

“We’d like to see some moisture — of any kind now,” Justin said. “Normally we’re struggling as far as (planting around wet) potholes, but this year we’re going to be able to plant most everything, the way it looks.”

Dry conditions so far create some uneasiness for the 2021 crop year in Agar, S.D., a town established in 1910 in Sully County in South Dakota. Photo taken March 31, 2021, at Agar, S.D. Mikkel Pates / Agweek
Dry conditions so far create some uneasiness for the 2021 crop year in Agar, S.D., a town established in 1910 in Sully County in South Dakota. Photo taken March 31, 2021, at Agar, S.D. Mikkel Pates / Agweek

A few weeks earlier the farm got some snow, in two episodes. “We got just shy of an inch of moisture,” Justin said.

This year, the Joachims are mostly holding steady to normal rotation plans.

“We might be cutting back on fertilizer a little bit, but not substantially — just because we’re so dry,” Justin said. “We’ll save some for a ‘stream-bar’ applicator later, hoping we’ll get some rain.”

Crop prices had been looking promising, but Justin noted that a report on March 31 was bearish for winter wheat and spring wheat. “There’s more intended acres (of spring wheat) to be planted,” he said. “Corn and soybeans look good, though.”

“It’s hard to forward-contract because of the way things look, as far as being really dry.”

He thinks corn planting could start around April 20, which would be normal. Corn is relatively new for their area.

“The genetics have improved, and with our farming practices, with no-till, we’ve been able to raise some pretty good corn,” Justin said.

Agar is a farming and ranching town of about 76 in Sully County, S.D. Photo taken March 31, 2021, at Agar, S.D. Mikkel Pates / Agweek
Agar is a farming and ranching town of about 76 in Sully County, S.D. Photo taken March 31, 2021, at Agar, S.D. Mikkel Pates / Agweek