Variability leads to questions about SD crop outcomes

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MITCHELL, S.D. — The U.S. Department of Agriculture is projecting a record corn crop in South Dakota for 2018, with a 170-bushel per acre yield estimate, and a near record soybean yield of 49 bushels per acre. However, with the variability in the state from areas too wet to those too dry, it is uncertain if the agency hit the mark and some farmers are uncertain about those estimates.

In the southeastern part of the state, farmers had a wet spring which delayed planting and then experienced flooding during the growing season. Reid Jensen farms near Burbank and says precipitation on his farm this summer has been well above normal. "We had around 15 inches of rain in June so you know we had some water damage on some of the crops. And when you see that much water in our area it does hurt our yield some," he says.

As a result, Jensen says his crop is highly variable. "The well-drained soils, tiled soils are very good and then I have some flatter ground that's not tiled and it's been wet since last year," he says. "There's spots out there that we don't have anything so that's going to bring my average down some."

So, he is projecting lower than average yields. "My goal this year would be in that 175 area on corn overall and beans around 50," Jensen says.

Elk Point farmer Doug Hanson says the excessive precipitation on his farm has also caused significant nitrogen loss, especially in low-lying fields. "They're already yellowing and they're not really yellowing because they're maturing — they're yellowing because they ran out of food." So, he is expecting corn production to be 75 percent of normal and soybeans 80 percent of normal on his farm.

On the other hand, east central South Dakota is a garden spot. Jeff Thompson farms near Colton, which is about 20 miles north of Sioux Falls. "I don't know how it could get any better looking, so I almost feel guilty saying they're looking that good," he says. Thompson believes the corn crop could be a record on his farm. "I think it will be around that 200-bushel area. It will be probably some of the best corn we've ever had," he says.

Plus, his soybeans have excellent yield potential. "It will be some of the best we've had there, too," Thompson says.

Even central South Dakota could hit a home run at harvest. Jim Burg and his sons run a family operation near Wessington Springs and he believes the crop will be the best he's seen in his lifetime. "We probably are looking at the best corn crop we've ever had — 175-plus in our area. That's something," he says.

Burg is excited about soybeans running above average. "I'm think that 55, 60 in our area is very possible, because the big thing we have is we had no drown out," he says.

Farther north the outlook is split as west of Aberdeen is once again dry, while east of that area has had more timely rains. Bob Metz farms right across the border from Browns Valley, Minn., and is one of those farmers who has had ideal conditions. "We had very timely rains, hardly any big rains. So, zero drowned out spots, which really does help your yields," he says.

It is likely Metz will have some record production when he harvests the crop this fall. "We keep hearing from crop consultants that we should be up in the 200 area which is excellent for northeast South Dakota."

Metz wouldn't be surprised to have a record soybean crop as well. "They're talking 50-plus soybeans and considering we probably have a 42 bushel 10-year average, that's a nice crop. That's 20 percent better."

So the question remains, with the variability will South Dakota have a record corn crop and near record soybean crop this year? Bayer Crop Science agronomist Keith Mockler thinks so. "We've had an optimum July and August. Most guys have gotten more rain than they've ever seen in July and August," he says.