Area farmers finding good corn and soybean yields

A JOHN DEERE COMBINE moves through a cornfield west of Madison on Thursday afternoon as South Dakota farmers are finding above-average yields for corn and soybean crops this fall. Along with the good yields, the grain in the fields has dried out well before the crops are harvested, meaning farmers typically have decreased grain-drying expenses this fall.

A South Dakota State University Extension agronomist reported on Friday that the current results from South Dakota's corn and soybean harvests indicate above-average yields this fall.

Jonathan Kleinjan, an SDSU agronomist based in Brookings, noted that corn and soybean farmers were reporting "good, solid yields" this fall, partly helped when the state's corn farmers were able to plant their corn fields early in the spring.

According to Kleinjan, per-acre yields for corn in the far eastern part of South Dakota were currently ranging from 160 to 240 bushels per acre. For soybean yields, farmers in the southeast reported per-acre yields in the 40s, while farmers in the Madison and Brookings areas were finding yields in the 50s. Kleinjan said soybean farmers in the Watertown area were finding their yields a bit less.

The USDA researchers predicted last week, based on conditions at the start of October, that South Dakota's corn production could reach 752 million bushels, 35% higher than the state's 2019 production level. Staff with the National Agricultural Statistics Service forecasted that corn yields statewide could average 165 bushels per acre, 21 bushels per acre higher than last year.

South Dakota corn farmers are expected to harvest 4.56 million acres for grain -- 18% higher than during 2019.

The NASS' crop progress report at the start of this week stated that the corn harvest was 39% complete, well ahead of the 15% five-year average for completion.

In the area of quality, 67% of South Dakota's corn crop was rated good and another 11% was considered excellent. Sixteen percent of the 2020 corn crop was rated fair. The remaining 6% of the corn crop was rated either poor or very poor.

In February, researchers estimated that the value of South Dakota's 2019 corn crop would total $2.1 billion, a decrease of 20% from the 2018 marketing year. They reported last winter that the state's average corn price would amount to $3.70 per bushel.

The conditions for the state's soybean production had ag researchers predicting 2020 harvest levels at 235 million bushels, a 61% increase from the 2019 harvest. The average soybean yields across South Dakota were forecasted at 48 bushels per acre, up 5 1/2 bushels from last year.

South Dakota soybean farmers are expected to harvest 4.9 million acres across the state, which is 42% higher than during the 2019 harvest.

At the start of this week, NASS staff reported that 82% of South Dakota's soybeans were harvested, well ahead of the five-year average of 42%.

U.S. Agriculture Department researchers estimated earlier this year that the state's 2019 soybean production amounted to $1.23 billion -- a 39% decrease from 2018. In February 2020, they believed the average price of soybeans would amount to $8.40 per bushel.

Across South Dakota, the supply of topsoil moisture was rated 31% adequate and 0% surplus. Forty-eight percent of topsoil moisture was rated short, and the remaining 20% was considered very short. Throughout the state, subsoil moisture was rated at 41% adequate and 0% surplus. In addition, 46% of subsoil moisture was considered short, and the remaining 13% was rated very short.

"The dry weather and the heat later in the season really helped things along this year," Kleinjan said about conditions that helped the state's corn crop mature and dry out while the ears were still on the stalks.

Kleinjan also said the typically early plantings for corn this spring also helped with the crop's maturity this fall. He noted that South Dakota corn farmers have used their dryer bins less in 2020.

"We've seen almost no grain-drying this year, and that's the polar opposite of what farmers had to do during last year's harvest," Kleinjan said.

However, drier conditions in the fields also mean that conditions are at a higher risk for fires. Due to the greater fire danger, harvesting crews should regularly clean their combines, trucks and grain wagons from collecting dust, corn leaves and other flammable material and also carry operable fire extinguishers among their equipment.

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