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South Dakota Farmers Hopeful as Spring Planting Looms
South Dakota Ag Connection - 04/02/2021

As of March 20, we've officially entered into Spring, and farmers across the state are hopeful for favorable conditions following a mostly dry winter. Across our region, farmers are thankful for the rain and snow we've recently received and pray for just the right amount of moisture to kick off the growing season.

Climate Outlook

Weather is a key factor in determining how a growing season will play out. Each year, farmers and ranchers across the state look to both short- and long-term forecasts as they prepare for fieldwork.

"Going into spring we're concerned about drought," said Laura Edwards, SDSU Extension state climatologist. "We have more than three-quarters of the state in some level of drought right now. That's been a concern since last fall, and we've carried over some of those quite dry conditions into early spring."

Edwards also expects that temperatures in South Dakota will be higher than average through the growing season, which may be concerning.

"Even if we have average moisture, warmer-than-average temps can zap the moisture out of the soil pretty quickly. This isn't to say we are going to be warmer than average all the time, but prolonged temperatures that are warmer than average can really affect soil moisture. If we don't get timely rains, this may be concerning later on in the season."

As we all know, the weather is subject to change. Edwards suggests farmers and ranchers check out the University of Nebraska's cropping systems interactive graphic with different climate scenarios by season to help get a good idea of what management strategies might be considered in each scenario. This tool she helped develop can help farmers plan and prepare for different crop conditions throughout the year.

Prospective Plant Report 2021

Once a year at the end of March, the USDA releases the Prospective Plantings report and the 2021 edition was released at 11 a.m. today. Also called the Planting Intentions report, it is a survey of farmers from across the country, and helps the USDA calculate how many acres of each crop farmers anticipate planting.

The report helps to gauge the total acres of crops and commodities farmers are planning on planting across the country, as well as within each state. It is also a tool for commodity traders and farmers to measure the expected market value of crops and it helps set the tone for global trading markets across the world throughout the growing season.

Here's the breakdown of what's expected with corn, soybeans and wheat across the country:

Corn: Acreage is expected to increase by less than one percent compared to last year. The total estimated acres for corn of all uses is 91.1 million.

Soybeans: Acres are expected to increase five percent for an estimated total of 87.6 million acres.

Wheat: All wheat types planted this year is estimated at 46.4 million acres, which is a five percent increase compared to 2020. According to the report, this is the fourth-lowest area of wheat planted in the U.S. since 1919.

In South Dakota, 5.6 million acres of corn is expected in the state, which is a 13% increase over last year's 4.95 million acres. Soybean acres in the state are also up 15% over last year with an expected 5.7 million acres to be planted compared to last year's 4.95 million acres. Wheat acres in the state are projected to reach 1.51 million acres, an increase of 8% compared to last year's 1.4 million acres.

Higher commodity prices and demand for ethanol as more consumers are hitting the road may be a deciding factor for some farmers as they enter into this planting season.

Optimism growing across the state

One of the familiar sayings on many farms dating back multiple generations is: "Plant in the mud, your crop's a dud. Plant in the dust, your bins will bust." Farmers in South Dakota are hopeful this holds true as they begin planting over the next several weeks.

"Our part of the world around Hamill is plenty dry," said Trent Kubik, a South Dakota Corn Growers board member. "There has been some spring moisture with a little bit of snow and rain, but overall, our soil profile has a long way to go to recharge and refill, but there is plenty of growing season to make it happen."

He said quite a few small grain crops in his area are beginning to be planted as many farmers are looking to get a jump start on their spring wheat, oats and alfalfa crops for the season. Many in the area, however, haven't adjusted their crop acres heading into planting season.

"Our neighbors and a lot of people in our area haven't adjusted their normal plans even with commodity prices. We had a big spring grain crop last year mainly because commodity prices were suppressed, so it made it easier to plant other crops. Tripp County is the largest livestock-producing county in the state, so there are a lot of acres planted for feed. Even if commodity prices are really good, these acres won't shift in our county."

Kubik is also expecting that many farmers will be sticking with their usual corn and bean acres as farmers return to normal following lower grain prices in previous years.

"The only thing holding farmers back is the concern of dry weather, even with optimistic grain prices. Eighty degrees at the end of March has everyone, even the guys that have been doing this a long time, on edge thinking maybe we're in a dry pattern. There's still a lot of optimism across the state for what this growing season has to offer though."

Catch the farmer roundtable

Just like each spring, we're looking forward to what the growing season holds, especially as many farmers across the region get set to start planting their crops.

If you haven't checked it out yet, be sure to catch our latest episode of Farming in the 605. Hear more about what different farmers across South Dakota have to say about the upcoming growing season and what they're seeing out in their regions. Ryan Wagner weighs in with what's going on in the north, Robert Walsh checks in from the southeast and Chet Edinger gives us an update from the east-central part of the state.

Listen to the latest podcast at www.sdcorn.org/605-podcast/episode-7 and remember to be safe in your work heading into growing season.


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