Racing the rain: 9 inches of rain in 2 months slows SD bean planting

BERESFORD, S.D. -- The Larsens are in a race with the rain. "It's been really wet," says Laura Larsen who farms with husband, John, and his father, Ron, at Beresford, S.D., about 40 miles south of Sioux Falls. "It just gets dried up and you go li...

They've gotten the corn in, but the John and Laura Larsen family - with 9 inches of rain in the past two months - had planted only this 45-acre field of soybeans by May 21, 2017. They hope to get the rest of the 1,000 acres of beans in the next two weeks at the farm, near Beresford, S.D., about 40 miles south of Sioux Falls. Photo taken May 21, 2017, near Beresford, S.D. (Forum News Service/Agweek/Mikkel Pates)

BERESFORD, S.D. - The Larsens are in a race with the rain.

"It's been really wet," says Laura Larsen who farms with husband, John, and his father, Ron, at Beresford, S.D., about 40 miles south of Sioux Falls. "It just gets dried up and you go like heck for a couple of days and then you get more rain," she says.

The Larsens are behind schedule for planting their soybeans, but they aren't panicking - yet.

The farm has had more than 9 inches of rain in the past two months, including about 3 inches of rain from May 18-20.

By May 21, the couple had all of their corn - about 1,000 acres - in the ground, but had planted only about 45 acres out of a planned 1,000 or so acres of soybeans. They need to get the soybeans in the ground by mid-June to meet insurance deadlines. Some of the corn will probably have to be replanted because it is likely to drowned out. They put the corn into mud in a few areas. They acquired a new track-type tractor this year which should help with compaction.


John says last year was a similar year for planting delays.

"It seems like it's almost a pattern - wet in the springtime, and it's a race." In a week or two, the family starts running out of time, but it's too soon to think about that, he says. "I take it one day at a time: got the corn in. We need a good week of dry weather and hit it hard."

Similar to '16

Despite similar conditions in 2016, the farm picked up respectable yields in the 50- to lower 60-bushel range. Corn averaged in the 190-bushel-per-acre range despite the slow start. They have about 1,000 acres each of corn and soybeans and about 60 of alfalfa, along with their 145-head cow-calf beef operation.

Laura grew up near downtown Calgary, Alberta, a cosmopolitan city of 1.2 million. She moved with her mother to Brandon, S.D., for her senior year in high school. She enrolled in the wildlife biology program and got a master's degree from South Dakota State University in Brookings. John also went to SDSU, initially for wildlife biology, before returning to the farm. They were married in 2013.

"I never thought I'd live on a farm - not in a million years," Laura says. She stays busy with her 1-year-old daughter, Jane, but also helps work cattle, runs for parts and takes out field lunch this time of the year. She operates grain carts during harvest, and this year she hopes to land-roll beans - the process of pushing stones into the soil after bean planting to aid in a smooth harvest in the fall.

And don't forget the chickens. She ordered 14 chicks from Murray McMurray hatchery of Webster City, Iowa.

"It's the brown egg-layer mix," she says, describing the colorful chicken breed names - Silver Laced Wyandotts, Barred Rock, Rhode Island Reds, Sussex and Light Brahmas. "I moved to a farm and I wanted chickens."


NASS reports

Here is how the National Agricultural Statistics Service describes crop progress and conditions throughout Agweek country, as of May 22.

South Dakota - Cool, wet conditions allowed only three suitable field days. Heavier rains were in already-saturated southeast South Dakota. Topsoil moisture is rated 5 percent very short, 24 percent short, 66 percent adequate and 5 percent surplus across the state.

Winter wheat is averaging 54 percent good to excellent condition. Spring wheat is ranked 44 percent good to excellent, with planting ahead of the five-year average. Barley conditions are 50 percent good, none excellent, and emergence ahead of schedule.

Corn was 88 percent planted, compared to an 84 percent average; 47 percent is emerged, slightly ahead of average. Soybeans are 56 percent planted, ahead of the 50 percent five-year average, but emergence is behind at 11 percent compared to the 13 percent average.

Alfalfa conditions are 6 percent very poor, 25 percent poor, 44 percent fair, 23 percent good and 2 percent excellent. Pasture and range conditions are 4 percent very poor, 15 percent poor, 37 percent fair, 40 percent good and 4 percent excellent.

Minnesota - Cool, wet conditions limited farmers to 2.5 days of fieldwork. Topsoil is now short in only 1 percent of the state, with 72 percent adequate and 27 percent surplus. The whole southeast corner of the state had 2.5 to 5 inches of rain in the week ending May 21.

Spring wheat is 93 percent good to excellent condition, with 75 percent emerged, ahead of the 62 percent five-year average. Barley is 90 percent good to excellent, with emergence at 68 percent, ahead of a 60 percent average.


Corn is ranked 82 percent good to excellent, with 59 percent emerged, 53 percent average. Soybeans are 72 percent planted, compared to 62 a percent average, with 16 percent emerged, slightly behind average. Dry beans are 26 percent planted, compared to a 41 percent average. Potatoes are 88 percent planted, ahead of the 79 percent average.

North Dakota - Spotty rains allowed an average of 6.6 days of fieldwork, with topsoil moisture 67 percent adequate or surplus. Pastures in the west were showing stress from lack of rainfall.

Winter wheat was 69 percent good to excellent. Durum is 67 percent emerged, compared to 27 percent for the five-year average. Spring wheat is rated 80 percent good to excellent, with 75 percent emerged compared to a 40 percent average. Barley is 79 percent good to excellent, with 74 percent emerged, ahead of the 35 percent average.

Corn planting is 91 percent planted compared to a 67 percent average, with 49 percent emerged, compared to a 26 percent average. Soybeans are 81 percent planted, ahead of the 52 percent average, with 51 percent emerged.

Key status of other crops include: Canola, 86 planted, 52 percent average; sunflowers, 46 percent planted, 18 percent average; flaxseed, 75 percent planted, 36 percent average; dry peas, 82 percent emerged, 30 percent average; dry edible beans, 60 percent planted, 22 percent average; potatoes, 87 percent planted, 42 percent average.

Montana - Temperature highs ranged from the 50s to 70s across the state with lows in the mid-30s in Livingston, Mont., east of Bozeman.

Winter wheat conditions declined slightly in the past week but was still 52 percent good to excellent. Pasture and range conditions declined slightly but were still 60 percent good to excellent, compared to 40 percent for the five-year average at this date.

Crop progress compared to average includes: Corn, 76 percent planted, 75 percent average; dry beans, 68 percent planted, 67 percent average; dry peas, 94 percent planted, 95 percent average; flaxseed, 59 percent planted, 76 percent average; lentils, 49 percent emerged, 35 percent average; Mustard, 57 percent planted, 78 percent average; oats, 62 percent planted, 84 percent average; potatoes, 55 percent planted, 51 percent average; safflower, 20 percent planted, 58 percent average; sugar beets, 50 percent emerged, 53 percent average; durum, 76 percent planted, 75 percent average; spring wheat, 52 percent emerged, 56 percent average.


About 70 percent of the cattle and calves had been moved to summer ranges, but 16 percent were receiving supplemental feed. Sheep and lambs were also 70 percent moved to summer pasture, with 23 percent receiving supplemental feed.

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