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Planting Progress in Dakotas Behind, But Not Critical

Improved May weather is permitting many farmers to catch up on spring fieldwork.

Jason Frerichs was hauling corn to a nearby ethanol plant as I caught up with him yesterday. The Wilmot, South Dakota, farmer had a bit of downtime from fieldwork during a light rain shower. 

“For us, things have gone well,” he says. Bone-chilling temperatures and a mid-April snowfall combined to create fieldwork delays. That’s translated into fieldwork and resulting crop emergence being about seven to 10 days behind normal, he says. 

Still, a break in the weather during May allowed him and his family to catch up on planting. “We were fortunate that the Peever area in central Roberts (South Dakota) was drier for fieldwork,” he says. “Even now, it’s been a day-to-day deal, going to what is ready.”  

Fieldwork status

The past week was good for fieldwork in North Dakota. For the week ending May 13, 6.1 days in North Dakota, on average, were suitable for fieldwork, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Suitable days for fieldwork were a bit lower in South Dakota. Still, 4.1 days, on average, were suitable for fieldwork during the same time frame.

 “The wheat is up, some corn is starting to emerge, and we have one fourth of our soybeans in the ground,” says Frerichs. “I talked to one neighbor who said in his 50 years of farming, this is shaping up as one of the best potential crops.”

Yesterday’s shower was welcome, as it has been drier farther west in South Dakota. “If you draw a circle around Aberdeen (northeastern South Dakota’s largest city) and go out 50 to 60 miles, it’s been a little drier there,” he says.

 In North Dakota, as of May 13, USDA rated topsoil moisture supplies as:

  • 12% very short
  • 35% short
  • 50% adequate
  • 3% surplus  

Subsoil moisture supplies are:

  • 15% very short
  • 36% short
  • 47% adequate
  • 2% surplus 

In South Dakota, topsoil moisture supplies are:

  • 1% very short
  • 11% short
  • 81% adequate
  • 7% surplus  

Subsoil moisture supplies are:

  • 3% very short
  • 23% short
  • 70% adequate
  • 4% surplus 

Wheat’s Still There 

A time traveler who last visited northeastern South Dakota in 1978 would instantly think much of the area mimics Iowa. That’s due to the corn and soybean fields lining the landscape that have displaced much of the wheat that used to rule here.

The Frerichses still plant this golden grain, albeit at a lower amount. 

“We planted all spring wheat and no winter wheat this year,” he says. “We planted winter wheat a few years ago, but we had some winterkill.” 

This – combined with wheat’s bargain-basement price – has caused wheat acreage to decline on their farm and elsewhere in northeastern South Dakota.

Still, wheat fills a niche on their farm, particularly on lighter soils. On those acres, the Frerichses often plant soybeans and wheat, with an occasional smattering of a full corn-soybean-wheat rotation. In some areas of their farm, they also planted rye as a cover crop following silage corn with the intent to graze it before planting soybeans.

A diverse rotation gives them flexibility in accounting for changes in weather and crop prices, says Frerichs. 

So far, frost has stayed away. Earlier in the month, unplanted and planted ground where crops had not emerged could have shaken off frost. No more. 

“If there is a frost, we would be worried, because the crop is coming out of the ground,” says Frerichs. 

Rough calving season 

The good cropping season — so far — is welcome, as it comes on the heels of a difficult weather-ravaged calving season.

“We weren’t even the epicenter up here, but it was tough,” says Frerichs. “It will be so nice to get the cows and calves out on pasture. The grass is slow growing, but it will pop with all the moisture we are getting.”

Alfalfa is mimicking grass development, but the combination of warmer days and abundant moisture is setting up for a first cutting during the first week of June, he says. 

North Dakota planting and crop status 

Here’s a summary of crop planting status and crop conditions rated by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service in North Dakota for the week ended May 13.

  • Soybeans are 12% planted, 25% behind last year and 21% for the five-year average. 
  • Spring wheat is 52% planted, 68% behind last year, and near 56% average. Eight percent is emerged, well behind 28 last year, and behind the 24% average. 
  • Durum wheat is 27% planted, well behind 48% last year, and 36% behind average. Two percent is emerged.
  • Corn is 35% planted, behind 53% last year and 44% average. One percent is emerged, which is behind last year’s 7% and the 7% average
  • Canola is 23% planted, behind last year’s 40% and the average 34%. One percent is emerged.
  • Sugar beets are 90% planted, just a shade below last year’s 93% level and ahead of the average 71%.
  • Oats are 34% planted, well behind 69% last year and 55% average. Five percent is emerged, well behind last year’s 28% level and behind the 21% average. ​
  • Barley is 47% planted, well behind last year’s 68% and near the 51% average. 
  • Dry edible peas are 39% planted, well behind last year’s 75% and behind the 50% average. Two percent is emerged, behind last year’s 21% and the 19% average. 
  • Sunflowers are 2% planted, behind last year’s 10% and the 7% average. 
  • Flaxseed is 11% planted, behind last year’s 30% and the 24% average. 
  • Potatoes are 35% planted, near last year’s 38% level but ahead of the 30% average. 
  • Dry edible beans are 5% planted, near 6% last year and the 7% average. 

Winter wheat condition rates are:

  • 3% very poor
  • 11% poor 
  • 47% fair
  • 36% good
  • 3% excellent
  • Winter wheat jointed was 11%, well behind 38% last year. 

Pasture and range conditions are:

  • 3% very poor
  • 22% poor
  • 51% fair
  • 20% good
  • 1% excellent

Stock water supplies are:

  • 4% very short
  • 21% short
  • 72% adequate
  • 3% surplus

South Dakota planting and crop status

Here’s a summary of crop planting status and crop conditions in South Dakota for the week ended May 13.

  • Corn is 21% planted, well behind 71% last year and 61% for the five-year average. 
  • Soybeans are 4% planted, well behind 26% last year and behind the 22% average. 
  • Spring wheat is 79% planted, behind last year’s 98% and the 89% average. Twenty-eight percent is emerged, well behind last year’s 81% and the 58% average. 
  • Oats are 78% planted, well behind last year’s 98% and behind the 90% average. Thirty-two percent is emerged, well behind last year’s 89% and last year’s 66% average. 
  • Sorghum is 3% planted, behind last year’s 13% level and near the 5% average. 

Winter wheat ratings are:

  • 1% very poor
  • 11% poor
  • 53% fair
  • 35% good
  • 0% excellent

Pasture and range conditions are:

  • 3% very poor
  • 14% poor
  • 43% fair
  • 37% good
  • 3% excellent
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