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Soybeans look good, though late, in northeast South Dakota

Crop consultant Bret McGillivary, of BM Agronomy of Watertown, on Aug. 15, 2022, told the Agweek Crop Tour the soybean crop in a 100-mile diameter area looks largely good, despite being a week behind.

A man smiles, standing in front of a white Ford pickup truck, flanked by his all-terrain vehicle and a field of soybeans.
Bret McGillivary, owner-operator of his BM Agronomy Inc., crop consultant company, based at Watertown, South Dakota, helps look after crops for about 20 farmers, in a 50-mile radius around Watertown, including this soybean field about 10 miles south of Doland, South Dakota, on Aug. 15, 2022.
Mikkel Pates / Agweek
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DOLAND, S.D. — This year’s soybean crop in northeast South Dakota gets a rating of seven on a scale of 10, but the year isn’t over yet.

Bret McGillivary of Watertown, South Dakota, and runs a business called BM Agronomy Inc. He cares for about 20 clients in a 50-mile radius of Watertown. He takes in corn and soybeans, but also sunflower, wheat and alfalfa.

McGillivray took time to visit about soybeans with the Agweek Corn and Soybean Tour, in what he considers a representative field for his area, about ten miles south of Doland, in Spink County. McGillivary found no insect pressure, good pod numbers and filling pods, as long as moisture continues.

The beans are about a week behind.


A week behind

A man looks at soybean stems and pods in mid-August.
Soybeans in the Doland, South Dakota, area, about 50 miles west of Watertown in Spink County, earned a 7 out of 10 scoring by one crop consultant, with crops in the R5 “reproductive” phase. Photo taken Aug. 15, 2022.
Mikkel Pates / Agweek

So far, McGillivary says the biggest challenge for the region was late planting because it was too wet. Farmers here typically would plant soybeans the first week of May but most of his farmer-clients planted in late May to early June.

The Aug. 14, 2022, report by the National Agricultural Statistics Service said soybean condition in South Dakota was rated 4% very poor, 10% poor, 31% fair, 49% good, and 6% excellent. Soybeans blooming was 95%, equal to last year, and near 94% average. Setting pods was 74%, behind 82% last year, and near 76% average.

In the field tour on Aug. 15, 2022, McGillivary said soybeans were in the “early- to mid-R5” growth stage. (The reproductive stage termed beginning seed (R5) represents a seed that is 1/8-inch long in a pod at one of the four uppermost nodes.)

McGillivary found minimal insect feeding. The crop would have been in the R6 stage in a normal planting year.

Normally, the area would hope for a 50-bushel per acre yield, but low 40s are “much more average.”

The James River Valley tends to have a longer growing season, but it will affect the amount of flowers and number of pods. An early frost rarely is an issue in the James Valley, where the limiting factor will be moisture.

A man sits pondering a technical journal in a white pickup and yellow ATV setup, indicating he is a crop consultant.
Crop consultant Bret McGillivary sits in his field office –- a pickup truck with an all-terrain vehicle –- reading research about crop disease thresholds, on Aug. 15, 2022, near Doland, South Dakota.
Mikkel Pates / Agweek

A ‘7’ out of ‘10’

McGillivary rates this crop as a probably a “seven” on a scale of one to 10, with the 10 being the best.


“We’re at the brink of really needing moisture,” he said. “It could go down from there, or up.”

McGillivary’s concerns late in the growing year has been with insects. Insect pressure had been relatively low, but he’s watching bean leaf beetles and grasshoppers.

“We are less than normal here (with grasshoppers) but that’s not the case most places,” he said.

The Watertown area had a hot problem with spider mites in 2021but less so in 2022 with wet and humid conditions. Farther west, there have been a few spider mite issues but a lot of grasshopper problems.

“East from here, until you get to Minnesota, the aphids are not a problem yet,” he said.

The area is a mix of Xtend, XtendFlex, and Enlist soybeans, McGillivary said. There have been minimal problems this year with off-target dicamba damage, in part due to increased Xtend Flex.

“Our moisture levels have been better this year, so we’re having less trouble with it,” he said.

The spraying conditions have been good this year, with more humid weather, and most tools have worked quite well. He didn’t know of any new technology on the horizon for 2023. There has been very little talk on seed purchases for 2023.


“More fertilizer talk,” he said.

The concerns about fertilizer availability in 2022 generally did not come to pass, he said. Many farmers bought their fertilizer early, but the market also provided a “scare” that was bigger than reality. “Very often the case over the years,” he said.

The war in Russia and Ukraine also added to uncertainty over herbicide and pesticide availability, but McGillivary said it seems that those supplies, too, are going to “loosen up.” He said it seems it will be “closer to normal, for sure.”

Mikkel Pates is an agricultural journalist, creating print, online and television stories for Agweek magazine and Agweek TV.
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