How South Dakota's crop is coming along
South Dakota is called the land of infinite variety, and for good reason. The 2012 growing season has so far shown great differences in soil moisture levels.
If you ever think your fields are too wet, remember this picture. It’s the line between Brown and Marshall Counties in northeastern South Dakota in June 2011. The land on all sides of this road used to be pretty decent farmland. But flooding has been the rule rather than the exception in recent years.
The good news is the situation is better this spring—if you can call this better. Water still laps up in the ditches surrounding the road, but an open winter and less spring precipitation has enabled area farmers to plant acres that were ceded to prevented planting from 2009 to 2011.
The drier weather made for a good corn stand on my land near Claremont, South Dakota. Even stands are essential for good yields in the fall. “If plants are two leaf stages behind, there is a big yield drag,” says Jeff Coulter, University of Minnesota Extension agronomist.
U of M research shows corn yields for stands with a one-leaf stage delay for every other plant are 94% of corn stands with uniform stands. Yields are further pared back to 83% of uniform stands with stands with a two-leaf stage delay on every other plant.
Soil moisture was excellent in the Claremont area, as I was able to easily plunge a soil probe in the ground. Soils quickly dried out, though, as I drove further into central South Dakota. This corn was holding its own north of Miller, South Dakota, but it was growing in drier soils than many of those in northeastern South Dakota.
Soil moisture also was abundant. I put my soil probe in the soil prior to plunging it down. I was expecting drier soils, but the next photo shows how reduced tillage and no-till can shine in a dry year.
It was no problem to plunge the entire soil probe into the soil. Pulling it out revealed adequate soil moisture to take this crop into the dog days of July, when soil moisture is a must for optimum pollination.
The winter wheat crop was coming along in the area, as evidenced by this field north of Miller, South Dakota. Dry weather has had its impact on anticipated production, though. USDA’s most recent crop report pegs South Dakota’s winter wheat crop at just below 56 million bushels, down 2% from the May estimate and down 16% from last year.
South Dakotans often take their cattle herds for granted. In lots of the places I travel, though, cattle are a rare sight. There aren’t many herds in these areas like this friendly group near Stephan, South Dakota, that took time to greet me during a camera adjustment stop.
Follow along on this quick tour of South Dakota's crop conditions.