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Winter wheat harvest gets underway in South Dakota; crop not as good as farmers had hoped for

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SIOUX FALLS, South Dakota — The winter wheat harvest is underway in South Dakota, but the crop isn't as good as farmers had hoped for when they planted it last fall.

Ten percent of the winter wheat in the state has been combined, ahead of zero percent last year at the same time but behind the long-term average of 15 percent, the Agriculture Department said in its weekly crop report.

The crop is rated 7 percent very poor, 22 percent poor, 38 percent fair, 31 percent good and 2 percent excellent.

PHOTO: In this Sunday, July12, 2015, winter wheat is unloaded after being harvested near Presho, S.D.  The winter wheat harvest is underway in South Dakota, but the crop isn't as good as farmers had hoped for when they planted it last fall. (Phu Nguyen/Capital Journal via AP)
In this Sunday, July12, 2015, winter wheat is unloaded after being harvested near Presho, S.D. The winter wheat harvest is underway in South Dakota, but the crop isn't as good as farmers had hoped for when they planted it last fall. (Phu Nguyen/Capital Journal via AP)

A dry fall, a cold early winter without snow cover and a dry spring all worked to hurt the crop, according to the Capital Journal. Many farmers dug up winter wheat fields this spring, figuring there was nothing worth saving, and harvested acres are expected to be down 11 percent from last year in South Dakota.

"We probably lost 40 percent of the winter wheat here," said Tim Luken, manager of the Oahe Grain Corp. in Onida. "Some of it still standing is only ankle-high, and thin stands."

The Agriculture Department forecasts the average winter wheat yield, or production per acre, in South Dakota this year to be down 14 percent to 41 bushels per acre. Randy Neuhauser, who harvested winter wheat Monday near Fort Pierre, said his yields aren't quite average this year.

"The first field I did went a little over 40 (bushels per acre), the second one only made about 30 and this one is back up to about 40," he said.

The state's corn and soybean crops appear to be in better shape. The weekly crop report says soybeans are rated 76 percent good to excellent, and corn is 77 percent in those categories.

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