2016 Agriculture & Natural Resources Impact Report Back »

Competitive Agronomy Systems

During 2016 crop season South Dakota experienced moderate to dry condition across much of its landscape which had some thinking of a repeat of previous droughts. During early August the U.S. Drought Monitor showed over 50% of South Dakota in moderate drought or worse. About 9% of the state was in severe drought, and 5% in extreme drought. Conditions started to improve early in August to relatively wet, especially in eastern South Dakota. What helped however were the relatively moderate temperatures which reduced water by crops and vegetation, and allowed for soil moisture retention. In spite of the initial concerns because of the weather, temperatures and adequately timed rain episodes resulted in 2016 being a good yield year for the main cash crops produced in the state.


There were 5.6 million acres of corn planted for all purpose with a yield of 161 bushels per acre (compared to 159 FY15). Total corn grain production was 825.9 million bushels vs. 779.7 FY15. What did not help much however were corn prices at an average of $3.2 per bushel. More animals were fed silage during 2016 at 400,000 acres harvested vs 330,000 FY 2015. Not only were there more acres planted for silage but the yield was also better 17.5 tons per acre FY16 vs 16 FY15; this resulted in 7 and 5.3 million tons FY16 and 15, respectively. This situation with corn prices required multiple approaches by SDSU Extension ANR. Workshops on nutrition were accompanied by publications on how to optimize feeding of corn silage to livestock. Steers fed in the state increased by 16 percent and SDSU Extension publications, Beef SD, and workshops help support this growth. At the same time, we engaged in several international activities to increase corn exports out of state which helped increase corn prices from $3.2 at the beginning of the season to where it’s at today at $3.44. There is still much to be done FY2017 to increase local utilization which will be in part associated with more cattle being fed in the state.


All wheat planting acreage was down FY2016 at 2.27 million acres planted compared to 2.76 FY15. However, yield was 46.2 bushels during 2015 whereas 51.6 FY16. As a result of this difference last year’s crop was 111.28 million bushels compared to only 103.4 FY15. This resulted in a very significant boost to the state’s economy since prices accompanied the increased productivity, from close to $108 per metric ton to 125 presently. SDSU Extension had a very intense involvement with the traditional wheat walks, and iGrow articles which included from wheat pests to crop management.



Almost identical land was planted to soybeans at 5.2 million acres FY16 compared to 5.15 FY15. However, yield per acre greatly improved FY16 compared to 2015 at 49.5 and 46 bushels per acre, respectively. This resulted in a significantly higher crop FY16 at 255.9 million bushels compared to 235.5 million bushels FY15. Price per bushel FY16 was at around $9.1.

Soybean prices had their highest price at around $450 per ton. Greater soybean availability in international markets have resulted in SD prices dropping to $405 currently. It’s expected that prices will rebound this season as unfavorable weather conditions have happened in other countries of South America where soybeans are grown. SDSU Extension has supported this market through publications, workshops, and a strong concerted effort on topics from soils to plant pathology, to best management practices.



During 2015 there were more acres planted to sunflower at 679,000 (harvested 662,000) compared to the 558,000 of 2016, yields however were higher FY16 at 1,958 lbs. per acre compared to 1,858 lbs. FY15. Prices for sunflowers took a great hit during 2016 from $250 per ton in October to $215 today. Again through support in our programming activities, Agricultural Economics workshops and insect pest management SDSU Extension has helped producers cope with these reduced price market. We expect to expands our efforts for this important South Dakota crop during 2017.


Weather conditions were also excellent for hay production in South Dakota There were a total of 3.1 million acres harvested for all hay with a yield of 1.77 tons per acre; total production 5.5 million tons. Average price was $87.5 per ton. Of these 1.7 million were alfalfa hay yielding 2 tons per acre for a total of 3.4 million tons priced at $90 per ton. The remaining was grass hay and blends with 1.4 million acres yielding 1.5 tons per acre for a total of 2.1 million tons priced on average at $78 per ton. Prices for hay were not impressive compared to other years, this is in great part explained by an excellent 2016 growing season. If cattle prices continue to rebound, we expect prices for hay to increase. SDSU Extension had extensive participation on discussion of strategies to optimize hay quality from timely harvesting to its utilization by livestock.

Competitive Livestock Systems

Greater abundance of feed in grains and forages resulted in a stronger livestock industry. We had a beef herd recovering nicely at 1.664 million beef cows 380,000 steers on feed, 250,000 sheep, and 1.45 million hogs, and 4.5 million turkeys. If calves were included in the total the beef herd was up to 3.85 million. Dairy production continues to grow not only in numbers but very significantly on a per cow basis. During 2016 there were 116,000 cows with a total milk production of 2.54 billion pounds. All beef cattle rebounded from 3.7 million FY15 to 3.95 million FY 2016 for a 7 percent increase; similarly calves also increased from 1.71 to 1.8 million or a 5 percent increase. Beef cows that calved increased 5 percent from the previous year from 1.61 million to 1.69 million. Interesting was the fact that more steers were being fed in state during 2016 compared to 2015. Steers weighing 500 pounds an over increased by 16 percent during 2016 compared to 2015. SDSU Extension livestock field specialists made significant contributions to the growth of the beef herd. Programs on artificial insemination, Beef SD, accompanied by impactful publications on beef production all helped boost this sector of the state’s economy.


Addressing Timely Topics

Results of all these parameters are taken into consideration by SDSU Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources programming. Our field specialists all address urgent topics as dictated by the changes in local the environment. At the same time however they all have present that other factors affect the profitability of our stakeholders that are sometimes beyond their control. Nevertheless, their capacity to address “what-if” scenarios from crops, livestock, and natural resources perspectives help our producers keep abreast of any potential risks. Not only have they have addressed local problems but SDSU Extension also helped open markets for our agricultural products abroad, thus helping maintain or even enhance prices in South Dakota. One such example is the use of corn, not only to increase by 16% the number of steers being fed in state, but also helping export our excess production both of the grain and its co-products. All these things combined have helped and almost increase by 14% corn prices throughout 2016.


2016 Programming

Below are examples of impactful programming conducted by SDSU Extension ANR during 2016. They have all positively either affected the bottom line of South Dakota producers, improved the well-being of families across the state, or have resulted in improvements to the South Dakota environment.

iGrow Content

This programmatic activity has been accompanied by daily visits with local producers either electronically, over the phone, or one-on-one. Contributions to iGrow are a testament to the effort of all SDSU Extension ANR Field Specialist. During 2016 there 260 audio interviews on Dakotafarm radio, multiple contributions to newspaper columns and agricultural magazines, 448 IGrow articles, 121 news releases to the media, 82 publications, 91 events with online registration, and 30 online sales for different events.

Looking Ahead to 2017

What will happen during the 2017 season is difficult to predict as it is also almost impossible at the present time to accurately forecast weather trends in the medium to long term. What we do know whatever is that as well as precipitation may become scarce in the Upper Midwest, it will also be limiting in Europe which could result in stronger prices for soybean meal and as a result beef and dairy products. What we do know is that the EU buys its soybean meal mostly from Argentina, Brazil and the US. But more than half of the imported soybean is sourced from regions that are prone to dry spells which might reduce its supply. So regardless of the yields obtained in 2017 US crop profitability will be dictated by the timeliness of rain events in other parts of the world.

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