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VIDEO CROPSTOP: South Dakota weather turns friendly

WILLOW LAKE, S.D. -- Mark Vandersnick farms near Willow Lake, S.D., with his father-in-law, Lloyd Brekke. They farm in Beadle and Clark counties. The Beadle County land is near the James River valley, and is historically warmer than Clark County....

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Farmer Matt Vandersnick (left) of Willow Lake, S.D., helps custom applicator Jesse Papka of Iroquois, S.D., tank mix a sprayer to burn down a cover crop to allow planting of corn into strip-tillage April 27. Photo by Mikkel Pates, Agweek

WILLOW LAKE, S.D. - Mark Vandersnick farms near Willow Lake, S.D., with his father-in-law, Lloyd Brekke. They farm in Beadle and Clark counties.

The Beadle County land is near the James River valley, and is historically warmer than Clark County. “I like to get corn in there by the first week of May,” Vandersnick says. “In Clark County, I’d like to get it in by the middle of May. You’re losing yield if you plant after those dates.” The farm picked up 1 to 2 inches recently. “It was early enough that I was glad to have it,” Vandersnick says.

Jesse Papka, a custom applicator from Iroquois, S.D., recently applied glyphosate and 2, 4-D to a field that last July had been planted to a cover crop cocktail - a mix of compaction or deep-root cover crops such as radishes, turnips and vetch, millet and flax. It had been strip-tilled and was burned to prepare for planting.

Farmers banded fertilizer on spring wheat and performed their first pass of crop protection. Papka thinks there are fewer acres of winter wheat than usual, partly because things were dry last fall, and partly because of prices. “I think a lot of people don’t know what they’re going to do, the way prices are,” he says of crop rotations. “They can’t decide which crops they’re going to lose the most money on.” He says farmers are going to “take care of their land” regardless of commodity prices, but he’ll try to help them cut costs where it is practical.

Vandersnick hoped to start planting the week of April 18, but precipitation and temperatures put him about a week behind schedule. “It’s nothing alarming yet,” Vandersnick says.

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The challenge Vandersnick says the low commodity prices are “for sure a challenge,” and makes farmers want to “look at every input cost a little closer than we did four or five years ago.”

“I think it’s good for agriculture overall to make sure we’re doing everything as efficiently as possible,” he says of the price cycle. “If we make it through this, we’ll be in good shape.” He says one or two tractors might have been replaced faster in more fruitful times, but now will be repaired instead.

Other counter-moves to the low commodity prices include forgoing some of the small enhancements that might have added a bit to yield, but with an extra cost. “We’re trying to be as efficient as possible,” he says. This year, the farm added some oats. Last year, they had some winter wheat, but rotations have not changed much.

“All of the commodities now are on more of an even playing field, where before, corn and soybeans were just a financial no-brainer,” he says.

Vandersnick grew up a mile west of Iroquois, S.D., in Beadle County. He trained for the building trades at Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown, S.D., and worked construction for five years in the Sioux Falls, S.D., area before Vandersnick and his wife, Kristin Brekke Vandersnick, moved back to the Willow Lake area in 2005. He started a cabinetry business and began working on the Brekke farm, which has been in the family since 1895. Kristin has a communications career and has worked with the American Coalition for Ethanol and South Dakota Farm Bureau.

“With prices going down for such a long time, even a few ‘green days’ in the market make a guy smile,” Vandersnick says. “It is hopeful that we’re at $3 (per bushel) new-crop corn, compared to a dollar and some.” He says prices at auction have been down somewhat, “Overall, outlook on ag is still buoying, and over the next 10 to 15 years, it’s still positive for ag.”

Here are state-by-state crop progress and condition reports from the National Agricultural Statistics Service, with conditions as of May 2.

South Dakota Cold, wet weather kept field work to an average of 1.3 days for the week across the state. Topsoil is rated 93 percent adequate to surplus and subsoil moisture is now 90 percent adequate to surplus. Winter wheat is now rated 67 percent good and 6 percent excellent, with 34 percent joined, ahead of last year’s 12 percent.

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Other planting progress compared to the five-year average: corn is 12 percent planted, 21 percent average; spring wheat is 81 percent planted, 58 percent average, with 52 percent emerged, 28 percent average; soybeans are 1 percent planted, 2 percent average; oats are 80 percent planted, 63 percent average, with 54 percent emerged, 33 percent average; barley is 48 percent planted, 47 percent average, with 25 percent emerged, 19 percent average.

Livestock pasture and range conditions are 65 percent good, 9 percent excellent. Stock water supplies are 91 percent good to excellent.

North Dakota Temperatures were 10 degrees below normal and up to an inch of rain fell in the southern parts of the state, adding to pasture growth and improving planting conditions. There were 3.8 days suitable for fieldwork. Topsoil moisture is 86 percent adequate and 7 percent surplus. Subsoil moisture is 81 percent adequate, 4 percent surplus.

Winter wheat condition is 62 percent good and 7 percent excellent, with 19 percent jointed, equal to last year.

Planting progress for other crops compared to five-year averages: durum wheat is 11 percent, 14 percent average; spring wheat is 39 percent, 28 percent average, with 10 percent emerged, 8 percent average. Barley is 36 percent planted, 22 percent average, with 10 percent emerged, 5 percent average. Oats is 39 percent planted, 23 percent average, with 10 percent emerged, 7 percent average.

Corn is 16 percent planted, 14 percent average, with 1 percent emerged, ahead of the zero percent average for the date. Soybean planting is 2 percent, near the 3 percent average. Canola is 11 percent planted, 10 percent average; sunflowers are 1 percent planted, equal average; flaxseed, 9 percent planted, 7 percent average. Dry peas are 32 percent planted, 19 percent average, with 1 percent emerged, 4 percent average.

Potatoes are 9 percent planted, 11 percent average. Sugar beets are 74 percent planted, 38 percent average.

Pasture and range were rated 62 percent good and 7 percent excellent, with stock water supplies 83 percent adequate and 8 percent surplus.

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Minnesota There were only two days suitable for field work, because of cool and wet conditions. Some farmers were concerned about germination and emergence, while others saw the moisture as beneficial. Topsoil moisture was rated 80 percent adequate and 13 percent surplus. Subsoil is 80 percent adequate, 12 percent surplus.

Planting progress for various crops and comparisons to five-year averages were: corn is 59 percent planted, 27 percent average; soybeans are 6 percent planted, equal to average; barley is 46 percent planted, 34 percent average, with 18 percent emerged, 13 percent average; oats are 82 percent planted, 40 percent average, with 53 percent emerged, 20 percent average.

Spring wheat is 63 percent planted, 39 percent average, with 27 percent emerged, 19 percent average. Sugar beets are 88 percent planted, 39 percent average. Potatoes are 48 percent planted, 27 percent average.

Montana Cool, cloudy weather was led by Savage, Mont., where 2.12 inches of precipitation was accumulated. The state averaged 2.3 days of field work compared to an average of 4.6 days for this date. Topsoil is now ranked 81 percent adequate to surplus, ahead of the 79 percent average for the past five years. Subsoil is 68 percent adequate to surplus, compared to a 76 percent average. Winter wheat is starting to enter boot stage and is in line with five-year averages, but producers are reporting some wheat streak mosaic virus.

Barley is 65 percent planted, 50 percent average, with 30 percent emerged, 12 percent average; camelina is 43 percent planted, 19 percent average, with 13 percent emerged, 8 percent average; canola is 46 percent planted, 30 percent average, 2 percent emerged, equal to average; spring wheat is 60 percent planted, 38 percent average, with 21 percent emerged, 7 percent average.

Durum is 42 percent planted, 20 percent average; flaxseed is 49 percent planted, 19 percent average; mustard seed is 40 percent planted, 22 percent average; oats is 53 percent planted, 30 percent average, with 11 percent emerged, 7 percent average; safflower is 11 percent planted, 17 percent average.

Corn is 39 percent planted, 10 percent average, with 1 percent emerged, no average available; dry edible beans is 35 percent planted, 16 percent average, with 15 percent emerged, 2 percent average. Lentils are 48 percent planted 31 percent, with 1 percent emerged, equal to average. Sugar beets are 60 percent planted, 42 percent average, with 5 percent emerged, equal to average.

About 92 percent of beef cows calved, up from an average of 87 percent, with 29 percent moved into summer ranges, ahead of the 17 percent average. Lambing was 86 percent complete, up from the 74 percent average.

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