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Planting half as far along as last year

Charles Goldammer, of rural Mitchell, works to plant corn and soybeans Monday afternoon. (Jordan Steffen/Daily Republic)

South Dakota corn planting is only about half as far along as it was at this time last year, but farmers are not alarmed yet.

Mark Gross, president of the board of the South Dakota Corn Growers Association, planted his cornfields two weeks ago, a full month later than last year.

"I held off for the ground to warm," said Gross, of Bridgewater.

He said as long as farmers plant within the next week, the harvest won't be adversely impacted. The National Weather Service forecasts sunny skies until Wednesday, with a chance of precipitation Thursday and Friday.

Spring snow, frost and cold, along with some soggy weather, has led many farmers to push back planting, with some planting weeks later than last year.

Corn usually is planted beginning April 26, and corn planting is typically the most active May 2-27 and ends by June 10 in South Dakota, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Soybeans are usually planted beginning May 8, with the most active time being May 15-June 11 and completion by June 21.

Last year, 76 percent of corn fields in the state were planted by this week, compared to this year's 37 percent and the all-time average of 46 percent, according to the USDA. The USDA has projected South Dakota will plant 5.9 million acres of corn this year, down from the 6.15 million acres, a record high, planted last year.

Jack Davis, a Mitchell-based crops business management and field specialist for South

Dakota State University Extension, said yields should not be impacted if the planting season is compressed.

"We're probably looking at a later harvest, but we had an early harvest last year," Davis said. "They won't be behind by much."

Gross said once conditions become prime for planting, most farmers have quickly begun planting their fields.

Charles Goldammer, of Mitchell, is midway through planting 400 acres of corn. Goldammer, who farms on 800 acres, said there is less of a rush to plant due to the relatively small size of his farm.

"We wait until there are good conditions to start," Goldammer said Monday while in the field.

He said last year's dry weather is concerning for the upcoming season, but he always hopes for a good year.

"A farmer has to have faith, or else he wouldn't be out here," Goldammer said.

Davis said he does not anticipate farmers changing crops unless land isn't planted by May 25-30.

"There is no reason to switch," Davis said. "There is time to get it planted."

If corn is not planted by then, Davis said, farmers may switch to seed with a shorter maturity, or may choose to plant beans instead. Seeds with shorter maturity lengths produce lower yields than typical seeds.

Last year, farmers north of Interstate 90 were able to rely on backup soil moisture, Davis said. Without rain this year in June or July, the backup soil moisture will dry out.

Subsoil moisture in South Dakota was rated 27 percent adequate last week, while topsoil moisture was rated 59 percent adequate, according to the USDA.

Gross' concerns for the upcoming season echo worries from last year's dry summer.

"The main thing we need is rain," Gross said. "It's all dependent on timely rains."