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Too late for wheat, South Dakota farmer has started planting soy and corn

Dwayne Gorder is a northeast South Dakota farmer dropping plans to plant wheat because of the calendar. His first planting near Estelline, South Dakota, was on May 10, 2022.

A farmer in his 60s stands in front of a 120 horsepower tractor and John Deere no-till planter, a wind electrical generation tower in the background.
Dwayne Gorder, who farms near Estelline, South Dakota, says he’s pulled wheat out of his crop rotation because of the late planting, and planted his first soybeans into into last year’s alfalfa field, getting out of hay production because of the labor. Photo taken May 10, 2022.
Mikkel Pates / Agweek
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ESTELLINE, S.D. — May 10, 2022, was the first day this year for Dwayne Gorder, a farmer near Estelline.

“There was wheat in the rotation, but there won’t be this year,” Gorder said, stopping briefly. “It’s gotten to be late this year,” and that is “usually not good for cereal grains.”

A planter with an old-school marker wheel goes moves across a field, planting soybeans into an alfalfa field.
Dwayne Gorder, Estelline, S.D., plants his first 2022 soybeans into a field that had been in alfalfa hay for the previous eight seasons. The Enlist soybeans will tolerate the Roundup and 2,4-D he’ll apply to destroy the perennial crop so that the beans can grow. Photo taken May 10, 2022.
Mikkel Pates / Agweek

This year he’ll plant only corn, soybeans and alfalfa on about 700 acres. Gorder has been making these decisions since he was 21.

The Gorder’s farm had been in a “dry spot” in 2021.

Alfalfa only got about two cuttings. His corn and soybeans yielded 160 bushels per acre and 40 bushels per acre, respectively, while fields 20 miles to the north yielded 200 and 65 bushels, for corn and soybeans.

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A farmer takes a knee to evaluate soybean seed placement during planting, flanked by a no-till John Deere planter.
Farmer Dwayne Gorder checks seed placement for the soybeans he’s planting on a 50-acre field that had been in alfalfa hay for the past several years. Photo taken May 10, 2022, Estelline, South Dakota.
Mikkel Pates / Agweek

There had been an inch of hard rain the morning of May 9, 2022.

The next evening, Gorder was planting Enlist soybeans planting on a piece of long-term alfalfa ground, which helped it dry out. He typically rotates land out of alfalfa in five or six years, but this field had been in alfalfa for about eight years.

“I’m destroying it and not going to put more (alfalfa) acres in,” he said, of the alfalfa. “‘It’s very labor-intensive and I’m getting a bit older and I’m running out of steam to be up late at night, baling hay, yah.”

Alfalfa often cannot be baled during the heat of the day, because the stems may lose leaves — high in protein and energy — during the baling process in dry conditions. Producers often find that late nights and early mornings provide the only optimal times to bale alfalfa at the proper moisture levels.

The decision to put in soybeans in the alfalfa field was partly influenced by strong corn and soybean prices, but he said returns for the alfalfa bales were good, too. “I feel it was right up there with $15-, $16- (per bushel) beans,” he said.

After planting into the green aftermath from last year’s alfalfa, he’ll apply Roundup and 2, 4-D herbicide.

In 2022, Gorder will continue no-tilling, which saves fuel.

A no-till planter moves away, planting soybeans in one of last year's alfalfa fields as other farmers plant in the distance.
Dwayne Gorder, Estelline, S.D., plants his first 2022 soybeans into a field that had been in alfalfa hay for the previous eight seasons. The Enlist soybeans will tolerate the Roundup and 2,4-D he’ll apply to destroy the perennial crop so that the beans can grow. Photo taken May 10, 2022.
Mikkel pates / Agweek

Gorder is concerned that corn and soybean prices will stay strong, and not set up more of a cost-price squeeze. This is a danger if the “if the people are going to ‘rush’ the crop in or we get an early frost or other things that happen with Mother Nature, that the corresponding yield will suffer,” he said.

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Like most farmers, Gorder hopes for a big crop, one that is fed and protected by inputs, and producing a profit, however the inputs are priced. The economics are in place for 2022, but he is concerned about 2023, if input costs don't come down.

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