ASHTON, South Dakota — Soybean harvest was just getting started in northeast South Dakota in mid-September, and results are variable.

The National Agricultural Statistics Service on Sept. 20, 2021, indicated that 3% of South Dakota’s soybean acres were harvested, and that 79% were dropping leaves, compared to 60% average — and only 21% of the crop rated “good to excellent.”

The Frericks family near Ashton, South Dakota, started harvesting soybeans on Sept. 11, 2021, but had been going at it full-tilt on Sept. 16, and Sept. 17. They planned to shift to corn harvest on Sept. 21, 2021.

Ashton, South Dakota, is in eastern Spink County, with a population of about 115. Agriculture is the main economic driver, and the dry, hot summer took its toll on the crops.Photo taken Sept. 17, 2021, near Ashton, South Dakota.
Mikkel Pates / Agweek
Ashton, South Dakota, is in eastern Spink County, with a population of about 115. Agriculture is the main economic driver, and the dry, hot summer took its toll on the crops.Photo taken Sept. 17, 2021, near Ashton, South Dakota. Mikkel Pates / Agweek

Nathan Frericks, 25, and his father, Stacey, 56, farm 5,000 acres under the FZ Farms name, which stands for their last name and a former partner, Zoodsma, who died. Ashton is in eastern Spink County, 9 miles north of Redfield, and 20 miles south of Aberdeen.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

Nathan Frericks, 25, farms with his father, Stacey, 56, near Ashton, South Dakota, in eastern Spink County. The farm was affected by the 2021 drought, but was seeing widely variable yield results as of Sept. 17, 2021.Photo taken Sept. 17, 2021, near Ashton, South Dakota.
Mikkel Pates / Agweek
Nathan Frericks, 25, farms with his father, Stacey, 56, near Ashton, South Dakota, in eastern Spink County. The farm was affected by the 2021 drought, but was seeing widely variable yield results as of Sept. 17, 2021.Photo taken Sept. 17, 2021, near Ashton, South Dakota. Mikkel Pates / Agweek

The family raises crops and has more than 300 beef cows in a cow-calf operation.

Nathan’s older sister, Katrina, works in crop insurance at Malpert Insurance at Redfield.

F&Z Farms raises soybeans, rye and corn. They started raising hairy vetch in 2021. The Frerickses harvested oats and fall-planted winter rye, which turned out well. They also got the straw for the cows they’ll calve out in late December and January. They raise Simmental Angus and Fleckvieh cattle.

So far, so good, Nathan said, at the end of the day on Sept. 17. Rain was extremely short through much of the growing season, and then highly variable.

In the ‘dry’ zone

“We’ve just been a dry zone,” Nathan said. “It seemed typical, when the radar shows up, Aberdeen or Brentford is getting it, and then Redfield and south is getting it,” he said, of surrounding South Dakota towns. Storms in late August and early September brought 3-4 inches at his father’s place west of Ashton, and more than 5 inches fell where Nathan lives, about 5 miles north.

Soybeans were coming into the combine and semi-trailer at Ashton, South Dakota, on Sept. 17, 2021, just ahead of .2 inch rain on Sept. 20. Farmer Stacey Frericks and his son, Nathan, pegged the yields as widely variable — ranging from a lack-luster mid-teens of bushels per acre to more than 40 bushels.
Mikkel Pates / Agweek
Soybeans were coming into the combine and semi-trailer at Ashton, South Dakota, on Sept. 17, 2021, just ahead of .2 inch rain on Sept. 20. Farmer Stacey Frericks and his son, Nathan, pegged the yields as widely variable — ranging from a lack-luster mid-teens of bushels per acre to more than 40 bushels. Mikkel Pates / Agweek

Stacey on Sept. 17 pegged the soybean yields so far at mid-teens to mid-40s in bushels per acre.

“The bad ground is bad, and the better ground is holding in there,” he said. They had harvested about 500 acres of their 2,000 acres of soybeans. Some of the pods were green, but he expected that to change with a few more days of 90 degrees.

Nathan said some of the “black spots” in the field where soybeans had died off early, the “beans were pretty damned tiny,” but others were doing well, with 56 to 57 pounds per bushel test weight. The elevator would take 15% moisture beans, and he delivered 14.7% moisture.

Soybean yields were ranging from the mid-teens in bushels per acre to the 40-plus bushel range for FZ Farms of Ashton, South Dakota, in the early-going in the harvest as of Sept. 17, 2021.
Mikkel Pates / Agweek
Soybean yields were ranging from the mid-teens in bushels per acre to the 40-plus bushel range for FZ Farms of Ashton, South Dakota, in the early-going in the harvest as of Sept. 17, 2021. Mikkel Pates / Agweek

The worst of the soybeans been some “cupped and ugly,” a combination of drought and — he speculates — some off-target drift from dicamba herbicide. Some beans came out of it slowly, but it was bad to see it.

“People say, ‘Don’t worry about it, don’t even look at it, the yields is what you want to look at.’ Easier said than done when you have an ugly crop looking at you all summer. And then, here, seeing it when you’re combining and it don’t even show up on your yield monitor. So, that’s pretty bad,” Nathan said.

This year’s soybeans as of Sept. 17, 2021,  were yielding in the teens to mid-40 bushels per acre at the FZ Farms, a consequence of drought. Only about 3% of the state’s soybeans were harvested, according to a weekly government report. Stacey Frericks and his son, Nathan, were planning to combine some corn on Sept. 21, 2021. Photo taken Sept. 17, 2021, near Ashton, South Dakota. 
Mikkel Pates / Agweek
This year’s soybeans as of Sept. 17, 2021, were yielding in the teens to mid-40 bushels per acre at the FZ Farms, a consequence of drought. Only about 3% of the state’s soybeans were harvested, according to a weekly government report. Stacey Frericks and his son, Nathan, were planning to combine some corn on Sept. 21, 2021. Photo taken Sept. 17, 2021, near Ashton, South Dakota. Mikkel Pates / Agweek

After the drought, and then rain, Nathan said corn stalks on some fields had become brittle.

“We cut silage, and with the wind coming in too, it’s just snapping off,” he said. “We’re not the only ones dealing with it, but with the dry weather, it ain’t good.”

The Frericks family typically shoots for 150- to 160-bushels per acre corn yields. That is unlikely, with some ears “fitting in the palm of your hand,” and some much better. Nathan said that they were working around some wet spots in the soybeans. They may shift to corn if they solve a bin/storage issue.

A combine on Sept. 17, 2021, unloads soybeans into a grain cart at the FZ Farms, run by Stacey Frericks, 56, and his son, Nathan, 25, at Ashton, South Dakota, about 9 miles north of Redfield. Photo taken Sept. 17, 2021, near Ashton, South Dakota.
Mikkel Pates / Agweek
A combine on Sept. 17, 2021, unloads soybeans into a grain cart at the FZ Farms, run by Stacey Frericks, 56, and his son, Nathan, 25, at Ashton, South Dakota, about 9 miles north of Redfield. Photo taken Sept. 17, 2021, near Ashton, South Dakota. Mikkel Pates / Agweek

Latest NASS report

Here is a brief state-by-state summary of official crop conditions and progress, according to the Sept. 19, 2021, weekly NASS survey report:

South Dakota: Soybean conditions were reported 11% very poor, 29% poor, 39% fair, 20% good and 1% excellent, with 3% harvested.

Corn conditions were rated 15% very poor, 28% poor, 33% fair, 22% good and 2% excellent. Corn was 95% dented, compared to 85% as the five-year average. About 50% was mature, ahead of the 38% average. About 4% was mature, and near the 2% average.

About 33% had planted winter wheat, with about 1% emerged.

Sorghum was rated 22% good to excellent, with 98% coloring, ahead of the 83% average. About 42% was mature, ahead of the 29% average.

Pasture and range conditions remain 44% very poor, 36% poor, 15% fair, and only 5% good to excellent.

Topsoil moisture is very short or short on 67% of the state, and subsoil moisture is short or very short on 76% of the state.

North Dakota: Topsoil moisture is 64% short or very short. Subsoil moisture is 76% short or very short. Pastures and range conditions were 83% poor or very poor, with stock water very short to short in 86% of the state.

Soybean conditions were 15% very poor, 29% poor, 40% fair, 16% good and 0% excellent. About 80% were dropping leaves compared to 74% for the five-year average. About 11% were harvested, ahead of the 6% average.

Corn is 16% very poor, 27% poor, 41% fair, 16% good and 0% excellent. Corn was 90% in the dent stage, compared to 78% average for the date. About 43% was mature, ahead of the 32% average. About 3% was harvested.

About 81% of the canola was average, equal to the five-year average.

Sugarbeets were rated 65% good to excellent, and 11% had been harvested — about average.

Sunflower condition is rated 11% very poor, 31% poor, 39% fair, 18% good and 1% excellent. The sunflower ray flowers dry was 93% compared to the 73% average.

Potato conditions are 4% very poor, 16% poor, 63% fair, 15% good, and 2% excellent. Harvest is 29% complete, compared to 26% average.

Dry edible beans rated 15% very poor, 30% poor, 39% fair, 16% good and 0% excellent. About 57% had been harvested, ahead of the 49% five-year average.

Alfalfa is rated 77% poor or very poor.

Minnesota: Topsoil moisture is rated 11% very short, 24% short, 61% adequate and 4% surplus. Subsoil is 19% very short, 37% short, 43% adequate and 1% surplus. Pasture conditions were 57% good to excellent.

Soybeans were 11% harvested, up from a 5% average for the date. About 74% were dropping leaves, up from the 53% average.

Corn is 94% dented, seven days ahead of average. About 6% was harvested for grain, about 12 days ahead of the five-year average. Corn for silage was 85% harvested, with conditions rated only 38% good to excellent.

Sugarbeets were 10% harvested, just short of the 11% average for the date, with 72% rated good to excellent.

Dry edible beans were 52% harvested, up from the 48% average. Dry beans were rated 21% good to excellent. Potatoes were 41% harvested, compared to 46% for the date, with 73% good to excellent.

Sunflowers were rated 40% good to excellent.