Bumper crop may be on the way By Patrick Morrison
Yankton Media, Inc. The planting season ended early in southeast South Dakota thanks in part to exceptional field conditions. Keith Zanter, executive director for the Clay County office of the Farm Services Agency, said planting conditions allowed farmers to plant most of their crop by June 17, two weeks ahead of normal for most fields. "Planting conditions in Clay Country during early spring were great," Zanter said. "Soil conditions were very mellow and most of the crops got in when producers wanted. If you compare this year to last year, there were guys planting all the way to July 8, and with the exception of a few replants, all of this year's grain is in." Although farmers have until July 15 to file acreage reports, Zanter said early reports show one of the lowest prevent-plant rates since 2004. "There's a lot of growing season left, but to me we have the potential of a bumper crop," Zanter said. Larry Wagner, an agronomy educator for the SDSU Cooperative Extension Service, agreed. "I think right now we are sitting really well down in the southeastern corner of the state, mainly because we've had able rain and soils where producers were able to get in early," Wagner said. Wagner added producers could see average corn yields of 150 to 180 bushels an acre, which he says could rival parts of the eastern Corn Belt. "I think we'll see yields higher than some of the heavy corn producing parts of Illinois and Indiana because they got into the field extremely late," Wagner said. "They are going to have a tough time even getting the 200 bushels they're used to." Alan May, a grain marketing specialist with the SDSU Cooperative Extension Service, said high yields could have a positive impact on the recessed economy. "For a smaller area like southeast South Dakota, high yields could mean more producers buying implements, tractors and other goods and services," May said. "Certainly the more production we have lends itself to the fact that we could have more income coming from farm country, which could ripple through the rest of the economy." May added that while prices remain high, production costs have increased. "We still have prices right now, if we look at history, that are higher than we've historically had which helps to insulate the grain market to some degree," May said. "However, the overall cost of production has risen due to the economic downturn, especially fuel, fertilizer and machinery." In addition to rising production costs, severe weather has cut into some farmers' bottom line over the past few weeks, Zanter said. "We did have a hail storm move through around June 16-17 that affected a strip of crops throughout the county," Zanter said. "Damages went from limited damages to producers having to replant." Zanter said the hailstorm affected close to 10,000 acres, but only a handful of soybean fields and half a cornfield need to be replanted. "If producers get their replants in over the next few days, I don't think they will see much in the way of yield reductions," Zanter said. "Even the most severely hit maybe will go from an unbelievable crop down to an average crop." However, Zanter said a cause for concern may be the quality of the county's alfalfa crop. "If producers cut the alfalfa and it laid there for three weeks, that's a problem," Zanter said. "Not only is the first crop ruined but the second crop is hurt because you run a lot of it down." Luckily, if farmers were able to get their first cutting baled before the rain hit, they are now looking at very high yields for their second cutting, Zanter said. Wagner, whose CES Field Unit includes Union, Clay and Yankton counties, said he has not heard widespread reports of crop damage from area producers. "We have only seen isolated cases of farmers getting hail or storm damage," Wagner said. "We've heard of areas where the crops have yellowed out due to sitting in water, but they seem to be coming out of that pretty well."