VIDEO: Dakotafest attendees voice concerns about difficult economy

MITCHELL, S.D. -- Farmers came out strong for the first day of the Dakotafest farm show, but 90-degree heat and a lackluster farm economy had their effects in the afternoon.

Adam Varenhorst, South Dakota State University field crop entomologist based in Brookings, gives a late-season crop insect pest report at Dakotafest 2016 at Mitchell, S.D. (Forum News Service/Agweek/Mikkel Pates)

MITCHELL, S.D. - Farmers came out strong for the first day of the Dakotafest farm show, but 90-degree heat and a lackluster farm economy had their effects in the afternoon.

A sampling of exhibitors and show-goers indicated a mixed report of how buyers are reacting to the difficult economic conditions. Dozens of people stood in groups, watching vendors demonstrate cattle handling equipment, and vendors kept cold water close at hand.

Exhibitor Dan Johnson, regional sales manager for Dairyland Seed, based in West Bend, Wis., says farmers certainly aren’t as pleased as they were in the higher profit years of the recent past. Johnson, who manages the company’s forage and row crop products in the Dakotas and Minnesota, says how the crop is doing can make a difference. Western South Dakota in the Mitchell area hasn’t received as much rain as crops in other areas.

Poor pockets

“We have some dry pockets, so some of these guys have a little less crop to be excited about coming into fall, but in general across the three states, it’s a pretty positive crop out there,” Johnson says. Farmers want good yields, but the better crop prospects collectively work against them.


“We’re all in this for the long-term,” Johnson says. He talked with lenders who thinks farmers are on the “earlier side of what could be a kind of tough ag economy, but we’re agriculturists. We’re farmers. We believe there are some great opportunities in agriculture ahead. We have to weather that storm to get to a more positive side - that sunrise, so to speak.”

Joshua Rauser, operations manager for Superior, Inc., one of the region’s grain bin makers and marketers, says the numbers were down at Dakotafest, but the people who came were serious buyers, so the net effect will likely be nearly as good as other years.

Bin sales picked up drastically in the past month when the small grains harvest started coming off. Yields were high and markets were low. “Space got filled up and now they’re looking at corn and beans, and looking at potentially record yields. They’ve got to do something with it. Right now, (the sales will go to) whoever can get there the quickest. It’s ‘When can you have it done?’ That seems to be the main question we’re hearing  here.”

Finances are an issue, but Rauser says just about everyone he talked to at Dakotafest had their ducks in a row with a lender back home.

Brain tillage

Education of the key draws for Dakotafest. South Dakota State University put on another full slate of seminars, from smart grain marketing to effective tips for handling cattle.

Adam Varenhorst, SDSU field crop entomologist gave a late-season crop insect pest report. He says farmers are facing corn rootworms. Farmers noticing are more European corn borers in the mix this year, in part because more farmers are transitioning to less expensive conventional corn hybrids this year, and not spending the extra money for Bacillus thuringiensis.

Soybean aphids are becoming apparent, but populations are fairly low, says Varenhorst who is based in Brookings but travels through much of the state.


“As soon as the soybeans hit the ‘R6’ (reproductive stage) growth where you have a little of those seeds filling out in the upper nodes of your plant, then you don’t worry as much (about spraying) because we just don’t see much return-on-investment as far as yield improvements when you spray after that point.”

Some areas of the state that have been dry have been seeing more grasshopper damage as the insects “just look for something green,” Varenhorst says. Farmers have been seeing more green clover worms and bean leaf beetles. “The biggest thing to do is watch how much is being defoliated because that’s easier than trying to actually go out and try to calculate all the insects that are out there, and try to figure out the economic threshold for each of  them individually.”

An eye on aphids

Right at this point most of our soybeans have flowered. Anything at 20 percent defoliation or beyond now, pretty much warrants an insecticide spray, but Varenhorst hasn’t seen any damage that great. Farmers have to start watching their pre-harvest intervals, however, to make sure an insecticide application doesn’t end up delaying the harvest beyond an acceptable point.

Varenhorst says he’s keeping an eye on Minnesota researchers who last year found the nation’s first soybean aphids that were resistant to the pyrethroid class of insecticide, which is one of the main controls again. This year, the Minnesotans thought the resistance wasn’t going to rear its ugly head again, but a couple of weeks earlier  they saw some again.

“The big issue is, if you do think you  have a resistant population, contact university researchers in either state. “We haven’t had any reports in South Dakota. But we do know they can fly a long way when they’re  in that wing stage.” Research has tracked them moving up to 100  miles, following some wind level.

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