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County-by-county look at the 2017 harvest

Joel Wieczorek runs his combine harvesting his field of wheat in 2016 northwest of Stickney. (Matt Gade/Republic)

The following are county-by-county glances in The Daily Republic's coverage area of this year's expected harvest. The information is gathered through local offices in each county, giving their best estimate at bushel-per-acre forecasts.


It was a better year than expected in Aurora County.

Corn yields this year averaged between 130 to 150 bushels per acre. However soybean yields of 40 to 50 bushels per acre were slightly disappointing, according to Steve Wolter, manager of South Dakota Wheat Growers in Stickney.

"Soybeans were down five to 10 bushels per acre from last year," Wolter said. "We had quite a long dry spell and little rain."

Overall, the county maintained a status quo for both wheat and corn yields. But the dry and hot days from the summer negatively impacted the soybeans the most.

Wolter said farmers are looking forward to the next growing season because the late fall rains left the soil moist.

"Our soil profile is wetter than it has been in awhile, so going into winter farmers are feeling good about next year," Wolter said. "I think they are satisfied considering the dry summer we had."


Strong August rains caused flooding in Bon Homme County.

Steve Vavruska, elevator manager for Central Farmers Coop in Tyndall, said a lot of fields were still wet and soggy in early November during harvest.

"It was a little too much at one time," he said.

Corn yields ranged between 90 to 125 in Bon Homme County, and soybeans finished between 40 and 60 bushels per acre.

"Beans are up about 15 from last year, and corn's down about 30," Vavruska said.

Producers were still working to get into some soggy fields as of Nov. 7 due to "a lot of flooding in a lot of areas."

Vavruska said the wheat crop was down in 2017 compared to the previous year. Wheat ranged averaged about 60-65 bushels per acre.

"This was just completely different this year than last because of all the moisture," he said.


A mostly dry summer left Brule County with below average production for the year.

Crop yields ranged from high and low throughout the county, according to Buffalo-Brule counties Farm Service Agency Executive Director James Anderson.

He said corn is less than 40 bushels per acre on average, however some farmers saw 150 bushels per acre. Soybeans did a little better than what was expected with 20 to 60 bushels per acre.

"We had a major hail storm in August in Southern Brule, which took out a good chunk of soybeans and corn," Anderson said. "The hail storm spread across eight miles in the county and hurt crops and livestock."

Despite dry conditions during most of the summer farmers said they did better than expected. Rainfall in August and September helpd changed some of the outlook. Early November snow slowed down production slightly, Anderson said. But overall, the county is "doing well" considering it being a drought year.


Dry conditions had big impacts on crop production in Buffalo County. Corn and soybeans yields were both poor this year, according to Buffalo-Brule counties Farm Service Agency Executive Director James Anderson.

"It was the toughest year in a quite awhile," Anderson said.

Crop yields were drastically lower than last year and farmers in Buffalo noticed the sharp decline. This year, corn yielded 40 to 50 bushels per acre and soybeans yielded 10 to 15 bushels per acre. In 2016, corn was at 100 to 150 bushels per acre and soybeans at 40 to 50 bushels per acre, according to Anderson.

"It was drier than normal and they did not grow a lot of crops," Anderson said.

Most of the corn produced was ultimately used for silage. Other crops such as hay and wheat fared slightly better. Sunflowers also did OK with 1,000 to 1,500 flowers, but typically is closer to 2,000. With little to no rainfall this summer it left Buffalo County drier than other areas of the state.

"The farmers are trying to hold together," Anderson said.


Hot, dry weather in June and July paved way for a wide range of corn yields for farmers in Charles Mix County.

The area saw spotty rains, according to Joe Tvrdy, vice president of agronomy for Country Pride.

"For corn, the early pollinating stuff didn't do very well," Tvrdy said. "The later stuff was still able to put together a pretty good yield."

The variance ranged from sub-100 bushel per acre fields up to 175 bushel corn. Average, Tvrdy said, was between 130 and 150.

"Some guys were surprised in a good way when they got in the field, others were surprised in a bad way," he said.

Farmers were "pleasantly surprised" with the soybean crop with ranges from 30 bushel per acre fields up to 60.

Charles Mix County soybean harvest was pretty similar to last year, Tvrdy said, but was "a little bit down on the corn."

Other crops of note were alfalfa and wheat. Alfalfa was down due to the summer heat, but wheat yields were pretty decent, Tvrdy said.


Harvest in Davison County is all over the board.

According to Owen Anderson, executive director of the Farm Service Agency in Davison and Hanson counties, there was a wide range of crop yields because of the brutally dry summer. But the patchy drought only impacted some local producers, creating both good and bad outlooks, Anderson said.

"We've heard of some really poor yields and some really good yields," Anderson said. "My gut here just tells me we're going to be about average when you take it across the whole county with some people being worse and some people being better."

In 2016, corn harvest yielded an average 136 bushels per acre, while soybeans saw approximately 39 bushels per acre. And Anderson estimates it'll be similar in yields this season. And while the soybean harvest is pretty much complete in Davison, corn harvest is still in progress, but luckily there's not a "foot of snow on the ground" yet, Anderson said.

"So far, so good this fall," Anderson said.


Some growing-season hail storms put a significant damper on the corn crop in Douglas County.

Corn yields near Corsica ranged from 0 to 160 bushel per acre in 2017, according to Dane Gillen, manager of CHS Farmers Alliance in Corsica. He said average yields were about 140 bushel per acre.

"It really depended on if you ran through the right thunderstorm," Gillen said.

Soybeans ranged between 30 to 65 bushel per acre, with averages in the high 40s. That was about 25 percent below 2016 yields, Gillen said. The soybean harvest was complete by the second week in November, and corn was about 80 percent finished then.

"It actually turned out better than what it looked like in the middle of July, but it was a tough year overall for Douglas County," he said.


In Gregory County, sporadic rains and dry spells made way for varying crop yields.

Soybean farmers were "pleasantly surprised" as harvest wrapped up in early November, as yields came out better than expected, according to Gregory County Farm Service Agency Executive Director Mary Jane West.

West declined to give estimates for average corn and soybean yields but said corn yields were expected to be "fairly good."

"They're better than what farmers were expecting," West said. "They're excited about that."

Gregory County received a significant amount of moisture until June, when an extreme dry spell and heatwave hit, West said. Rain returned about mid-August and farmers are in good spirits. Pests such as grasshoppers weren't a notable issue for farmers in 2017, West said.

"Down here we're in better shape than ones to the north," West said. "It looks better now going into the winter than what they anticipated."


Herbicide damage was reported in Hanson and Davison counties, but nothing to make a huge impact on this year's soybean crop.

According to Owen Anderson, executive director of the Farm Service Agency in Hanson and Davison counties, Dicamba herbicide reportedly damaged soybean yields for several producers. But early summer drought may also have caused damage during the beginning of the growing season for all crops. Despite the herbicide reports and wacky weather, Anderson is estimating a pretty average harvest for Hanson County.

"I know that it's been quite a wide range because it was so dry this summer, some fields were stunted significantly," Anderson said, emphasizing the various reports of both good and bad yields.

In 2016, corn harvest yielded an average 145 bushels per acre, while soybeans saw approximately 42 bushels per acre. And Anderson said 2017 yields will be "pretty close to that."

Similarly to Davison County, Anderson said soybean harvest is nearly complete in Hanson, while a portion of the county's corn crop remains in the ground.

Late rains also impacted farmers with flooding.


Hutchinson County harvests will likely mirror its neighbor to the north.

Mary Haag, acting executive director of the Hutchinson County Farm Service Agency, said Hutchinson County saw much of the same conditions as Davison County and corn and soybean yields will likely be similar.

Davison County estimates yields of approximately 136 bushels per acre for corn and roughly 39 bushels per acre for soybeans.

And while Hutchinson County believes its farmers will reap similar yields, Haag said yields will be less than 2016.

Hail and drought affected nearly everybody in the county, she said.

"Drought hit hard and we had multiple hail storms that hit just about the whole county," Haag said. "I'd say overall harvest is going well, but yields will likely be down from last year."


It was a bad year for harvest production in Jerauld County, according to Jerauld and Sanborn counties Farm Service Agency Executive Director Kathleen Torres.

"It was kind of mess," Torres said.

Corn yields averaged between 40 to 180 bushels per acre, depending on what areas of the county received more rainfall and soybean yields averaged between 12.5 to 50 bushels per acre. In 2016, corn yields were 136 bushels per acre and soybeans were 50 per acre.

"It depended on farming practices. The farmers who planted early did not get much because there was not a lot of rain in the summer," Torres said.

There were some hail storms that also impacted crop yields. The farms impacted by the hail early in the summer had their crops knocked down and with no rain, it did not regrow.

Other crops such as wheat and rye did pretty good but since it was dry farmers used the small grains for hay to feed livestock.

"It was just a bad year," Torres said.


As harvest nears its end in Jones County, farmers expect yields to vary, and it's tough to say what areas fared best, according to Jones County Farm Service Agency Executive Director David Klingberg.

The amount of rain received in the summer months varied from field to field, Klingberg said and farms north of Draper were hit hard by a large hail storm that wiped out most crops.

And with recent snowfall, the county's harvest of milo, sunflowers and corn has hit a snag waiting for fields to dry out. It could be mid-December when harvest wraps up, Klingberg said, so being that far behind schedule "makes it difficult" to predict what yields might look like.

"I guess I'm not really sure what to expect," Klingberg said. "I would say it's a little in between normal, it's not a great year but it's not a great disaster either, so farmers are in good spirits."

Pests, such as grasshoppers and blackbirds weren't a major issue this year, Klingberg added, eliminating one potential issue.


Like many other counties, Lyman County crop yields vary, thanks to "weird weather."

Corn yields were "all over the place" with farmers recording anywhere from 50 to 100 bushels per acre, according to Lyman County Farm Service Agency Executive Director Don McManus. Soybean yields checked in at 15 to 30 bushels per acre, McManus said, which is a wider range than recent years.

"It was so dry to begin with, the stuff that held on came out of it, but for some of it the rain was too late," McManus said.

Additionally, three storms with "significant" hail damage blew through the county in late August and early September, wreaking havoc on some fields. Damage ranged from minimally affected to a complete loss, McManus said.

"That was pretty disappointing for farmers, for sure," he said.

As for pests, McManus said the year has been about the same as usual, with the main struggle coming from blackbirds near sunflower fields, McManus said, but it wasn't a major concern for farmers.


Producers are still "hammering away" in McCook County.

Late season rains delayed corn harvest in the county, according to Zach Neises, the acting executive director for the McCook County Farm Service Agency. With no days allowing corn to dry up from the extra moisture, Neises said corn producers are still in the middle of harvest.

"There's still some crop out there to get," Neises said," And in next two or three weeks hopefully they can get that finished up."

While corn is still in need of harvesting, soybeans is mostly complete in McCook County, and conditions vary greatly amongst southeastern South Dakota, Neises said.

"Kind of sporadic conditions between working down here in Salem and up in Madison," said Neises, who also is serving as FSA executive director in Lake County. "It's probably more up and down variable than it would be in past. There's going to be some good and probably some average crop."

Neises estimates soybean yields will be between approximately 40 and 50 bushels per acre while corn will be anywhere from 140 to 175.

"There's going to be spots that missed out on rain that will be below average, and there's going to be some that did catch a little more rain and might be above average. Really this year, it's hard to pinpoint until it's all finished out.


Miner County is "all over the board" as harvest comes to an end.

Harvest is nearly complete in the southern part of the county, according to Michaela Iverson, the executive director for the Miner County Farm Service Agency. Despite lack of moisture, soybean yields are expected to be between 40 and 60 bushels per acre, while corn ranges from 130 to 175 bushels per acres, Iverson said.

But spotty weather meant more rain for the northern part of Miner County. Iverson said producers still have approximately half of the corn crop in the ground, due to late season rains. But soybeans are estimated to yield between 45 and 50 bushels per acres while corn is nearly unpredictable.

"You hear anything from 100 to 200 (bushels per acre)," Iverson said. "But I'd say 140 is closer to average."

The central part of the county, according to Iverson, was also pretty wet, and many producers "hung back before getting started." The estimated corn yields will be between 140 and 200 bushels per acre with beans nearing approximately 55 bushels.

Iverson said the weather was the No. 1 complaint she heard from farmers, but luckily didn't have a huge impact.

"There's no wild stories, thankfully," she said.


Producers in Sanborn County feared poor yields for this year's harvest, but have been surprised with a much better outlook.

Kathleen Torres, executive director for Sanborn County Farm Service Agency, said the average yield for corn in 2017 is approximately 150 bushels per acre, while soybeans sit at about 50 bushels per acre — only slightly down from 2016's 159 bushels of corn per acre and 50 bushels of soybeans per acre.

"Even with drought the way it was, the last minute rains really helped out," Torres said. "Everybody is pleasantly surprised on that one."

While still a little bit behind last year's yields, Torres said harvest is better than expected to be due to the dry conditions this summer. And in Sanborn County, conditions varied as the northern side of the county was a lot drier than the southern half, Torres said.

"There's kind of a line there," she said. "But for the most part, I think harvest has gone pretty good."

While soybeans are nearly completely harvested in Sanborn, much of the corn crop is yet to be completed, Torres said. The late season rains caused for wetness at the end of harvest, allowing some producers to wait. And within next few weeks, Torres said, yields may increase as the remaining producers harvest the corn.


What to expect from the 2017 harvest is a bit of a mystery in Tripp County.

Officials with the Tripp County Farm Service Agency and Tripp County Extension Office each said farmers have been quiet about corn and soybean harvests.

Several hail storms ripped through the county, destroying many crops, while June and July were "extremely dry," taking a toll on other crops, Tripp County Farm Service Agency Executive Director Margie Wiley said.

"Last year there was quite a bit more moisture, which made for a better year," Wiley said, declining to provide yield estimates for corn and soybeans. "June and July were pretty severely dry here, so we're kind of hoping for the best and expecting the worst."

Harvest is expected to continue through December, as recent moisture has put a halt to harvest.