For some in area, yields better than anticipated
Mitchell-area wheat farmers who began this year's harvest with diminished expectations because of the drought are getting some pleasant surprises. "Yields are better than expected and wheat prices are still historically fairly good," said Jim Mor...
Mitchell-area wheat farmers who began this year's harvest with diminished expectations because of the drought are getting some pleasant surprises.
"Yields are better than expected and wheat prices are still historically fairly good," said Jim Morken, manager of the Farmer's Alliance elevator in Mitchell.
Area growers are a little disappointed, he said, considering the potential shown by early-season wheat stands, but yields could have been much worse, given the lack of rain in May and June. The Mitchell elevator draws from the immediate area, as well as points west and southwest, said Morken.
Average yield figures have not been compiled and area yields are inconsistent, with the poorest running 10 to 15 bushels an acre. Areas that received some rain getting as high as 60 bushels an acre.
"It's all over the board," he said.
The protein level of wheat is also higher than anticipated -- another unexpected bonus. The higher protein levels are a result of heavier fertilization and plants coping with the stress of low moisture.
SDSU Extension Educator Ray Gosmire also said he is hearing good reports about the area wheat crop.
"A number of farmers are pleasantly surprised with the harvest," Gosmire said, adding that yields of 40 to 45 bushels an acre are common, with a few fields in the 50-to-70 bushel range.
But it might have been better.
"This spring, it looked really good," he said. "Guys fertilized heavily and if you have a lot of nitrogen out there, it makes for high protein."
On the flip side, yields drop steadily in farms further west, said Jon Proehl, manager of the Dakota Plains Ag Center south of Parkston. He said yields this year ranged from "anywhere from 30 to 80 bushels an acre."
Proehl said his elevator, which has been working extra hours to accommodate harvesters, draws grain from as far west as Tripp, Todd and Mellette counties.
He estimates that lack of rainfall knocked off the top 25 percent of the winter wheat harvest.
"We were looking at 70 to 100 bushels an acre early on, and then came the dry months of May and June. We didn't get the rain we needed to fill the (wheat) heads out," he said.
On the plus side, he said, test weights may have been slightly low for wheat, but quality has been excellent this year. He said disease issues that aggravated farmers in past years have been rare during this harvest.
Western farms were generally worse off than eastern farms, although farms that were the lucky recipients of spotty rains did better than others.
"What I've been told of counties west of Winner is that rainfall was not as good as it has been locally, with some yields as low as 15 to 25 bushels an acre," he said.
"They just ran out of water. If one area received that extra inch of moisture," Proehl said, "it just made the difference."
In the previous two years, area farmers have had good 60- to 100-bushel-an-acre yields, even in western counties, he said.
Proehl said, "Everybody does a pretty good job of farming. They fertilize and do the right thing. It's just that Mother Nature needs to cooperate."
Brenda Bode, who farms in rural Mount Vernon with her husband, Lyle, said their fields have been yielding 30 to 60 bushels an acre.
"I'm totally amazed at what's out there for having no rain," she said. "Considering the situation, 50 bushels an acre at $5 an acre is really good."
Bode estimates low moisture cost her family operation at least 10 bushels an acre.
She said farming contacts have told her that conditions are particularly dry west of Kimball. "I've heard of 18 to 25 bushels an acre in the Pukwana-Reliance area," she said.
All agreed that good moisture levels are critical in the next few weeks to ensure a promising corn crop. But Gosmire said results of his recent soil sampling were not encouraging.
"Corn looks good now," he said, "but there's no excess moisture there.
"It's tremendously dry, and this at a time when corn really starts to use moisture. It'll use an inch-to an inch-and-a-half a week shortly. Right now, we've probably got a week's worth of moisture."
High heat and wind predicted for the upcoming week will cause corn to "roll" as leaves curl to protect plant moisture, said Gosmire. "Any time you see corn roll, you're losing yield," he said.
Low- and no-till farming helps protect soil moisture, Gosmire said, as do drought-resistant seed varieties.
"But the less tillage you use, the more it's going to show this year," he said.
"We just need rain."