- Associated Press - Thursday, December 14, 2017

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - U.S. agriculture officials say timely rain, additional acres planted and improved seed hybrids helped salvage South Dakota’s harvest this year, despite the worst drought conditions in five years.

The drought hit some farmers harder than others, but the statewide picture is better than agricultural officials expected at mid-summer, the Argus Leader reported .

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s December projections put the state’s corn crop at 788 million bushels, which makes it the fourth-largest in state history. Soybeans also performed well, with 252 million bushels harvested, down just 1 percent from last year’s record.

“We were definitely worried about what we might get when the combines started rolling in the fall,” said Travis Strasser, a farmer on the South Dakota Corn Growers Association Board of Directors. “We were blessed.”

Strasser said he saw 15 percent higher yields than last year, though the results weren’t consistent across counties.

Krystil Smit, director of the South Dakota Farm Bureau, said genetically-modified seeds produce plants with higher survival rates, even without moisture.

“These varieties can really handle a tremendous amount of stress,” Smit said.

Some counties were more affected by the drought conditions for longer lengths of time. Around 70 percent of South Dakota was in a stage of drought during September.

“If you follow the eastern side of South Dakota, we had a very good crop,” said Jerry Schmitz, a Vermillion farmer. “The further west you went, the drier things got . It was feast or famine.”

South Dakota’s drought has interfered in the state livestock market and contributed to wild fires.

Smit said farmers will need the weather to improve for next year.

“Without a major moisture recovery, they’re going to be looking at conditions that maybe those varieties and management won’t be able to deal,” Smit said.

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Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com

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