Dry weather helping farmers harvest good soybean crop after historic wet year

Brad Greenway, of Mount Vernon, combines the soybean fields on his Mount Vernon farm on an early October afternoon. (Sam Fosness / Republic)

MOUNT VERNON — What a difference a year makes.

That’s how soybean farmers in southeast South Dakota are characterizing this year’s harvesting season. After many area towns endured through their wettest year on record in 2019, soybean producers had only harvested roughly 30% of the state’s soybean crops in early October of last year. But that all changed in 2020, bringing with it very little precipitation, which has cleared the way for producers to have harvested 60% of the state’s soybean crops as of Oct. 4, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

At this time last year, Brad Greenway hadn’t even begun harvesting his soybean crops as they were sitting in a field drenched in water. But as of early October this year, the Mount Vernon farmer already harvested roughly 50% of his soybean crops, thanks to Mother Nature bringing warm and dry weather that’s been making for a great harvest.

“It’s a good crop, and we have had some beautiful harvest weather so far,” said Greenway, after taking a break from combining the fields. “Last year we had grain carts, combines and trucks getting stuck in fields, so it’s a blessing not having to deal with that this year.”

The state’s soybean crop conditions were rated 60% “good,” 22% “fair,” 9% “excellent,” 6% “poor” and 3% “very poor,” according to USDA’s Oct. 4 weekly crop report.


While the little moisture and warm fall weather has the harvest season going smooth for Greenway this year, he said his crops could have used a bit more rain. Considering his crops were drenched during the wettest year that the Mitchell area experienced in 2019 -- which restricted Greenway to plant roughly 50% of his soybean crops -- he’s not complaining about the dryer than average conditions that 2020 brought to the area.

Although the summer was very dry, an early June hail storm that brought severe wind gusts to the Mount Vernon area caused severe damage to roughly 1,000 acres of their corn and soybean crops, which forced the Greenways to replant them.

“We’re really dry right now, and the beans are showing it,” Greenway said. “It’s a completely different story this year. We are truly blessed to have everything planted.”

As of the USDA’s recent Oct. 4 report, 96% of the state’s soybean crops were planted this year, marking a 24% increase than what was planted in 2019. Last year, there were roughly 3.50 million acres of soybeans planted in the state. With the dry year the state has experienced in 2020, that number shot up to 5.20 million planted acreage of soybeans, marking a 49% increase from 2019, according to the USDA’s statistics.

Despite the 1,000 acres of the hail damaged crops, the yields are coming in “pretty good” for Greenway’s soybeans. Greenway’s yields have been hovering around 40 to 60 bushels per acre, on par with South Dakota’s forecasted average yield that's roughly 50 bushels per acre, according to the USDA. The average soybean yield in 2019 was just over 47 bushels per acre.

More importantly, soybean prices have managed to climb in South Dakota. At the Gavilon Grain elevator in Kimball, Todd Yeaton, Gavilon Grain manager, has seen soybean prices increase to roughly $9.50 this year, a near $1.50 spike from the 2019 prices that fluctuated around $8 at Kimball Gavilon Grain elevator.

“With the yields and current prices, there is a great opportunity for farmers to make some real money,” Yeaton said. “It’s a complete 180 from last year. We are seeing beans as high as they have been in quite some time”

Yeaton attributes the good soybean prices to the U.S. trade deals that have been made with China and Mexico in recent months.


“With China coming in and buying more, and the amount of business that has been done after that trade deal with China has been big,” Yeaton said.

Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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