Planted acres of corn and soybeans — the biggest crops in South Dakota — rose significantly in the state in 2020 after extreme rainfall in 2019 derailed many farmers' plans to put crops in the ground.
Those estimates come from surveys conducted during the first two weeks of June by the National Agricultural Statistics Service, part of the United States Department of Agriculture.
Statistics show farmers in South Dakota planted 5.40 million acres of corn for all purposes. That is up 24% from 2019. Of the total acres, 95% were planted with biotechnology varieties, up 1 percentage point from last year. The area to be harvested is estimated at 4.92 million acres, up 27% from a year ago.
Nationwide, producers planted 92 million acres of corn, which is 2.1 million acres above last year, or about a 3% increase.
The South Dakota acreage increase makes sense based on historic rainfalls in 2019 that kept many producers from even entering the fields, and at other times drowned out crops that farmers did manage to get in the ground. With better planting conditions prevalent in 2020, the acres for corn and some other crops were expected to be on the rise.
“It was so wet from last year, they just couldn’t get in. Some still haven’t been able to get dried out,” Jack Davis, crop business management field specialist with the South Dakota State Extension Service, told the Mitchell Republic.
Better weather has also played a role in South Dakota soybeans, Davis said. The soybean planted acreage is estimated at 5.20 million acres, which is up 49% from last year. Of those acres, 95% were planted with genetically modified, herbicide-resistant seed, which is up two percentage points from 2019. Producers are expected to harvest 5.15 million acres, up 50% from last year.
That compares to about 83.8 million acres of soybeans planted nationwide, a jump of about 10% over 2019.
Winter wheat planted in South Dakota fell 24% from a year ago, down to 650,000 acres. The harvested area is expected to total 580,000 acres, down 25% from last year. Other spring wheat planted area is estimated at 850,000, which is up 33% from a year earlier. Harvested acreage is expected to total 815,000 acres, which is up 35% from 2019.
Nationally, total wheat acreage this year is estimated at 44.3 million, down 2% from the previous year. That’s the lowest amount of acres planted since USDA began keeping records in 1919.
Davis said the jump in spring wheat numbers may have to do with a combination of poor planting conditions last year and lower corn prices earlier this spring, which may have turned some producers on to spring wheat as an alternative.
“Part of that may be last year’s poor spring planting conditions. They were better this year, plus the low corn prices this spring. It allowed them an alternative to switch to another crop,” Davis said. “Spring wheat prices were basically unchanged from the beginning of the year while corn prices were down about 15 to 20%. If (farmers) could fit it into their rotation, it was an opportunity to take advantage of.”
Alfalfa acreage to be harvested for dry hay is estimated at 1.85 million acres, down 3% from last year. Other hay acreage to be but for dry hay is estimated at 1.50 million acres, which is up 3% percent from 2019.
The change in alfalfa may simply be a case of natural fluctuation and the abundance of other grasses that could be cut that came with the heavy rains last year, Davis said.
“That’s probably just somewhat normal fluctuation. There were maybe some drown outs and guys didn’t go back to it right away and rotated out some of it,” Davis said.
Oil and non-oil sunflowers also saw a swing in acres in 2020, with a 20% increase in oil sunflower acreage at 580,000 acres, and a 21% increase in expected harvest area at 555,000 acres. Non-oil sunflower planted area is estimated at 35,000 acres, which is down 27% from 2019. The harvested area is estimated at 32,000 acres, up 3% from last year.
Sorghum planted for all purposes is estimated at 260,000 acres, which is up 4% from the previous year. Area to be harvested for grain is estimated at 120,000 acres, an increase of 31% from last year.
Oats planted for all purposes are estimated at 345,000 acres, up 41% from last year, and the area to be harvested is estimated at 115,000 acres, which is down 31% from last year.
Barley producers planted 35,000 acres for a 5% decrease from 2019. Area to be harvested for grain is estimated at 10,000 acres, which is an increase of 11% from last year.
Safflower planted is up 52% from last year at 21,000 acres. Harvested area is estimated at 19,000 acres, up 65% from the previous year and a record high if realized.
Proso millet planted is down 10% from last year at 46,000 acres. Harvested acreage estimates will be released in the January 2021 crop production summary.
Dry edible pea planted acreage is estimated at 12,000 acres, down 25% from last year and a record low if realized. Harvested area is estimated at 11,000 acres, down 27% from the previous year and another record low of realized.
While planted acres for crops may be course-correcting after the heavy rains of 2019, Davis said there are several factors working in favor of producers in 2020. Corn prices received a bump following the release of the report, and Davis said that may see producers clearing out some of their bins.
South Dakota corn stocks in all positions totaled 275 million bushels, which is up 3% from 2019, according to the USDA report. Of that total, 195 million bushels are stored on farms, down 7% from a year ago. Off-farm stocks, at 79.7 million bushels, are up 39% from last year.
“We got a good bump this week due to the report and the projected weather and heat. It’s not great prices, but it’s come up quite a bit in the last few days,” Davis said. “It might be time to clean out some old stuff and look at selling some new.”
Other positive factors include cheaper fuel prices and low interest rates. The interest rates support land values, which make up about 83 percent of the balance sheet for farmers nationwide, Davis said.
The weather may be the biggest change in 2020 compared to 2019, but Davis said farmers are looking at all the positives they can find as they look toward a more successful growing season this year.
“It’s more pleasant because the growing conditions are better and farmers are able to get things done a little easier in the fields,” Davis said. “You look for the positives.”