PIERRE, S.D. — Corn and soybeans are supplanting wheat as the crop of choice among South Dakota farmers because of higher profitability.
This year’s planted acres of spring and winter wheat in the state fell to just over 2 million, one of the lowest figures since the 1800s, the Capital Journal reported .
U.S. Department of Agriculture figures show South Dakota farmers seeded wheat on 4 million acres as early as the year 1900. But lower prices and profitability for wheat compared to corn and soybeans the past 10 to 20 years have convinced farmers to plant less wheat.
Wheat has become “a rotation crop,” meaning it’s planted more for the agronomic value between corn and soybean plantings rather than for the cash grain value, said Reid Christopherson, executive director of the South Dakota Wheat Commission.
South Dakota Corn Growers Association Vice President Doug Noem farms near Bryant in South Dakota’s sweet spot for corn: near the border of Iowa and Minnesota.
“I used to grow wheat,” Noem said. “I don’t think we have grown wheat for seven, eight years. It’s all corn and soybeans.”
South Dakota farmers planted 950,000 acres of winter wheat in the fall of 2016. But drought conditions most of this year meant they harvested only about 650,000 acres, a more than 41 percent decrease from harvest in 2016, according to the USDA.
By contrast, soybean acres planted hit a record of 5.4 million in the state this year, doubling in the past 22 years and increasing from a small amount only 40 years ago.
The state’s farmers decreased the corn acres they planted to 5.2 million this year. That number is down from the record 6.2 million acres in 2013 after prices hit record levels.