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South Dakota corn, soybean planting close to wrapping up

Slow start accelerates thanks to warmer temperatures

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Corn could be seen emerging from the ground west of Salem, S.D. Wednesday afternoon, June 1, 2022. Farmers are getting close to wrapping up their spring planting season, according to statistics from the United States Department of Agriculture.
Erik Kaufman / Mitchell Republic
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MITCHELL — It wasn’t an ideal start to the 2022 planting season, but warming temperatures and timely rains have farmers in a better position as they head into the summer growing months, according to agriculture officials.

“Things are looking pretty well. Prior to this weekend we were getting pretty concerned. Guys were putting in and praying for rain any day. And they got it,” said David Klingberg, executive director with the Farm Service Agency offices in Davison and Hanson counties. “It could have come a little slower with a little less wind, but overall they’ll take it. They took the moisture and they’re happy with it.”

It’s a nicer spot than what some may have predicted in late April, when cold soil kept farmers from getting their seed in the ground, putting producers behind a traditional schedule. Those temperatures eventually began to rise, finally opening the gate for planters to make their rounds in the fields.

Once in the field with planting underway, it was time to worry about the moisture. Most of South Dakota was and remains under some kind of drought warning, but a string of thunderstorms over the last month — some being severe — brought several inches of rain to the region.

But the fact the season started off dry gave farmers a chance to up their planted acres.

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“The soil temperature stayed cold for longer than they were hoping, and nobody could do anything about it, of course. They just put it in the ground and hoped that it wouldn’t rot before it germinated,” Klingberg said. “It was a slow start, but guys got a decent jump because of how dry it was. Guys have gotten into the field more timely than in previous years because of how dry it was and the (increased) ability to do fieldwork.”

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Corn could be seen emerging from the ground west of Salem, S.D. Wednesday afternoon, June 1, 2022. Farmers are getting close to wrapping up their spring planting season, according to statistics from the United States Department of Agriculture.
Erik Kaufman / Mitchell Republic

The latest crop progress report from the United States Department of Agriculture, dated May 29, indicates 86% of corn planted in South Dakota. That’s down from 97% last year but on par with the 82% five-year average. For soybeans, the planted percentage stands at 61%, which is also behind last year’s pace of 91%, but it is also near the five-year average of 64%.

Minnesota is seeing 82% corn planted, short of the 99% from last year and slightly below the 92% five-year average. For soybeans, the state is at 55% planted, down from the 99% at this point last year as well as the 80% on the five-year average.

North Dakota is at 20% corn planted, far below the 92% reported at this time last year, and well below the 83% five-year average. For soybeans, the state sits at 23% planted, well below the 86% it was at last year as well as the 70% five-year-average.

Wisconsin is seeing 80% corn planted, down from the state’s 94% at this time last year, but right in line with its 80% five-year average. Soybeans are at 73% planted, short of the 90% at this time last year but within range of the 64% five-year average.

Nationally, 86% of the corn crop in 18 producing states is reported in the ground. That’s also behind the 94% from last year and right at the five-year average of 87%. For soybeans, that same region reports 66% in the ground, down from 83% last year but also right on pace with the 67% average.

Planted acre reporting is currently underway, said Erik Gerlach, South Dakota state statistician with the USDA, said many farmers may have completed their planting already, and that final statistics on what got in the ground, and what may have been lost to wet conditions brought about by recent rains, will be coming in the coming weeks.

“It’s something we’ll evaluate over the course of the next few weeks as far as our June report,” Gerlach said. “We’ll get a little better look at that based on those producers who respond to the survey.”

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Now the attention turns to the weather and the hope for temperatures warm enough to ignite the growing process while remaining cool enough to not burn off the still-much-needed moisture.

Laura Edwards, South Dakota State University Extension state climatologist, said the recent rains did put a dent in the drought conditions in South Dakota. That’s especially true in and around the Mitchell region, but some regions are still in need of moisture.

“As far as drought goes, the Mitchell area has seen some improvements, but some parts of the state are still holding on to drought. We’ve had some areas get some pretty good rains, close to average or above average in the last month, and 1 and 2 categories have improved, especially in the north,” Edwards said.

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A United States Drought Monitor map show drought conditions in South Dakota as reported April 19, 2022.
United States Drought Monitor Graphic

The United States Drought Monitor indicates that the state overall has gone from 18.22% of the state having no drought conditions to 30.87% having no drought conditions over the last three months, but the rest of the range is mixed. Some of the more severe drought conditions have migrated to the west-central portion of the state, and areas that are under D3 or D4 conditions have risen from zero to 2.56% in the same span.

While drought may still be an issue, producers along the James River are seeing their acres cut by flooding, which Edwards said is an unusual development given the circumstances.

“One of the unusual things is that the James River is in flood stage while we have dry areas outside the floodplain,” Edwards said. “A lot of that water in the spring came down from North Dakota. It’s really unusual to have the river in flood stage and have it not be due to local conditions.”

Klingberg said farmers along the river are seeing that first hand. Prior to the rise of the river, dry conditions had some farmers making a gamble and planting in the James River basin. For some, it proved an unlucky choice.

“Maybe two weeks ago the Jim started rising from North Dakota and northern South Dakota rains, maybe even some snow melt. They have plenty of moisture in the northern part of the state and North Dakota and whenever they get rain it inches up on the James River. A lot of guys who planted on the Jim are flooded,” Klingberg said.

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Edwards said the outlook going into June should see slightly below-average temperatures, which at least should help keep that important moisture in the ground.

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A United States Drought Monitor map shows drought conditions in South Dakota as reported on May 31, 2022.
United States Drought Monitor Graphic

“The outlook for June sees cooler than average temperatures. I think we’re going to see slower-than-usual crop growth. But the benefit (of the cooler temperatures) is that whatever moisture we get is more likely to stay with us further into the season,” Edwards said. “And the rains last week didn’t see a ton of runoff generated into the rivers and streams, which is good news because it’s recharging our soil moisture.”

As farmers wrap up their spring fieldwork, Klingberg said the focus will shift to good growing conditions. That means warm temperatures and timely rains, with not too much of either. It’s a balance of which producers are constantly in search, and something that is out of their control. For the moment, Klingberg thinks warmer temperatures are the immediate want.

After that, bring on more rain.

“(Farmers) want their cake and eat it too. We need moisture to stick around and soak up a bit, but I think I’d lean toward the heat. We’re looking for growing degree days, and that’s the direction I would lean. But they know that a drought is always right around the corner, and we could slip back into that.”

Klingberg also urged farmers to complete their acreage reports by the July 15 deadline and to inquire about any available USDA assistance for damage suffered during the May derecho that moved through the region.

Erik Kaufman joined the Mitchell Republic in July of 2019 as an education and features reporter. He grew up in Freeman, S.D., graduating from Freeman High School. He graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1999 with a major in English and a minor in computer science. He can be reached at ekaufman@mitchellrepublic.com.
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