Both winter wheat and spring wheat harvests are behind schedule this year, thanks in part to poor weather throughout the planting, growing and harvest seasons.
“What we have heard is that it’s too wet to get out and combine in a lot of the fields,” said Owen Anderson, county executive director for the Davison County Farm Service Agency.
A cold winter and a wet spring made things difficult for wheat producers during both the planting and harvest season this year, impacting the harvest and related yields. A wet fall put winter wheat planting behind, as well.
The National Agricultural Statistics Service, a branch of the United States Department of Agriculture, released a report Aug. 12 noting winter wheat in South Dakota was 68 percent harvested, which is down from 96 percent at this time last year and 90 percent on an average year.
Spring wheat was even further behind, with 16 percent harvested, which is also well behind 76 percent harvested at this time last year and 61 percent on an average year. For quality, 2 percent of spring wheat was rated at very poor, 4 percent was rated at poor, 32 percent was rated at fair, 47 percent was rated at good and 15 percent was rated at excellent.
The wet fall likely reduced the number of winter wheat acres planted, said Anderson, and the cold winter and spring did not provide optimal growing conditions for either winter or spring wheat.
Paul Ortman, who grows spring wheat near Freeman, said the weather affected planting conditions for him this year.
“We didn’t get ours in until very late, April 29, and that’s basically a month later than is ideal,” Ortman said. “It was just a frustrating year for us in my personal experience. I’m not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but it was difficult for us in part because of the late start and it didn’t get the type of weather it likes early on.”
The extremely high humidity and rainfall did not provide ideal growing conditions, but Ortman’s relatively low acreage allowed him to get into the fields to harvest when conditions dried out enough, albeit a little later than he would have liked.
Ortman recently completed his wheat harvest last week, he said.
“The actual harvest mechanical experience was just fine. There was no mud in the fields we were working in, it was just a couple of days later than we would have wanted,” Ortman said.
Ortman grows about 20 acres of wheat as part of a diversification program on his farm, which makes up about 5 percent of his total field crops.
Ortman said the growing conditions are reflected in the yields he took in.
“This year was very depressing. I was in the mid-20 bushels per acre, which is easily less than 50 percent of what we have done in the past,” Ortman said.
Anderson said he estimated winter wheat yields to be down from yearly averages, as well, though that can vary from field to field depending on conditions.
“I believe yields are estimated to be lower than normal, but at the same time I did have a guy who was harvesting 70 bushels per acre,” Anderson said. “But I’m thinking countywide we’re expecting it to be below (average).”
Anderson said despite the conditions, the quality of grain coming out of the fields appears to be decent.
“I can’t really say I’ve heard any reports about disease or rust in the small grains. I’m not saying that it didn’t happen, but nobody in here has been complaining about it,” Anderson said.
High winds, which have been common in the region this spring and summer, did cause damage to pre-harvest wheat in some areas. A strong wind can lay plants down on the ground, making it difficult to harvest.
“A lot of time it’s laid over in one direction, which makes it hard for the combine to get it unless it’s coming from a certain direction,” Anderson said.
Spring wheat is seeing prices from $4.60 to $4.90 per bushel and winter wheat is seeing prices from $4.20 to $4.42 per bushel on average in eastern South Dakota as of Aug. 9, according to the Agricultural Marketing Service, another branch of the USDA.
Even though it was a rocky year, Ortman said he planned to continue to plant small grains in the future despite their occasionally tricky nature.
“It has all the negatives of spring-planted crops, and in a changing climate it poses a lot of challenges,” Ortman said.