As harvest gets underway, 2017 was problematic year for SD farmers
The weather in 2017 has been nothing but problematic for South Dakota’s farmers.
Growing season kicked off brutally dry, leaving farmers looking to the sky for any sign of rainfall. Drought-ridden South Dakota did little for the state’s crops, especially corn. And when make-or-break time hit in July for corn, the rain still didn’t come.
By August, rains poured on the state, continuing into September. And now, these same rains that were desperately needed by farmers may have a negative impact.
South Dakota’s Climatologist Laura Edwards said the recent rainfall is slowing down fall harvest in parts of South Dakota, especially from Gregory County northeast to Codington County.
“Harvest is slow,” Edwards said, emphasizing its role on the corn harvest
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) report, harvest is running a bit behind in South Dakota, with approximately 4.5 days suitable for fieldwork.
The report, which was released Oct. 10, said corn maturity was at 72 percent, behind last year’s 91 percent. The five-year average is 87 percent.
And area cooperatives are noticing an impact, too.
“We had some rain delays, and we had some nice rain come through the area in early October and now for the last, roughly, week, harvest has been progressing very rapidly,” said Jim Morken, general manager of CHS Farmers Alliance in Mitchell. “A lot of soybeans are being combined.”
Soybeans in the state are “chugging along” pretty quickly, Edwards said, and Morken agrees, adding that the quality of the crop is also very good.
The NASS report stated soybeans dropping leaves was at 97 percent, near last year’s 98 percent.
“Yields are coming in, most of them (producers) are fairly satisfied with the yields considering we had kind of a dry growing season this summer,” Morken said.
Farmers are focused on soybeans right now in the state, Morken said, because as the crop matures and the longer the beans remain in the field, the more likely they’ll have a loss of yield.
And as Morken and the Farmers Alliance see more soybeans being brought in, he believes the yield will be very similar to last year.
But for corn, not so much.
“We haven’t seen much combined yet, but I think the corn will be a little disappointing,” Morken said. “It was hot and dry there when the corn really needed moisture. I would get the sense bean yields will probably be closer to average and the corn yields will probably be a little disappointing.”
While a frost is usually met with groans and grimaces, Edwards believes Mitchell’s recent frost will be beneficial for farmers.
Oct. 10 saw Mitchell area’s first frost of the season, said Edwards, and it was “pretty well-timed.”
“That puts a solid end to the growing season,” Edwards said. “It ends the weeds and ends any issues of disease.”
For the next several weeks, Edwards estimates South Dakota will be “on the warmer side.” But even though the temperature may be heating up a bit for the end of October, Edwards said there’s still a chance for frost.
But that’s not bad, Edwards said, as it could help reduce drought potential for next spring.
Last year, Edwards said the first frost of the year didn’t take place until mid-November, which allowed vegetation to continue growing.
“They weren’t dying and getting killed off by a frost,” Edwards said. “It really used up the soil moisture, and I think that we already saw a frost is better news, at least, in reducing our drought potential for next spring.”
But as there is hope in a less brutal summer in 2018, Edwards also has fear for some southern South Dakota farmers.
The recent rains south of Mitchell, nearing Yankton and Vermillion, had “unusually wet” areas. Edwards said this is a concern, as it could increase the potential for flooding into the spring.
“On the flip side, it can be good news because you have soil moisture and your crops can get a decent start,” she said. “It’s a fine line.”