PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The wheat harvest that’s getting started in central South Dakota might finish as one of the area’s all-time best.

But weather extremes affecting other wheat-producing parts of the state haven’t been so helpful.

Western counties remained too dry and hot for ranchers to expect anything approaching record levels for winter wheat, while a cool and wet spring in the northeast delayed planting and caused some producers to turn to corn instead.

South Dakota Wheat Commission members shared conditions from their areas Thursday, as crews began getting into position for the 2022 harvest.

“Up in north-central South Dakota wheat looks very, very good,” said Tregg Cronin, a producer from the Gettysburg area. In his estimation, local winter wheat looks comparable to the strong harvest of 2020 and could be among the area’s top three or four crops ever.

“We’re not short on moisture. I think there’s enough there to fill,” Cronin said. He added, “It should be a very nice wheat crop in Sully and Potter (counties.) Walworth looks real good.”

Bryan Jorgensen of Ideal said the crop “looks good” in South Dakota’s south-central region where he lives. Jorgensen said winter wheat there could yield 75 to 80 bushels per acre and be one of the top three harvests recorded, while spring wheat could produce in the 50s-bushels neighborhood.

The Winner area hit a high of 109 degrees Fahrenheit on Wednesday. “We’ve had really good conditions, moisture-wise and temperature-wise, until the last couple of days,” Jorgensen said. “It’s solid.”

Leon Koeppe from the Claire City area wasn’t as optimistic. “What a challenging spring we had up in the northeast,” he said.

Koeppe wasn’t able to get seed into the ground until the first week of June. and those fields now stand about as tall as a coffee cup. “It actually does look pretty good. We’ve got good subsoil moisture,” he said.

But the weather led some producers to put in more corn this spring. “Even with twelve-dollar wheat, seven-dollar corn trumps it, as far as cash flows go,” Koeppe said.

Conditions in western counties still looked desperately dry in April but moderated somewhat since then, according to the region’s two commissioners.

Julian Roseth from the Midland area said he thought there would have been no wheat from his area this year when the commission last met at the end of April.

“It’s turned into an average crop,” Roseth said. He added, “We’re still in a severe drought. We got out of extreme (drought.)”

Terry Hand from the Midland area agreed. “Last meeting we didn’t think we were going to have anything to harvest,” he said. Now fields in the area look “combine-able.”

“At least we’ll have a wheat crop. We weren’t going to have one two months ago,” Hand said.

South Dakota wheat production

Annual harvests of all wheat swung back and forth in South Dakota during the past decade.

2012 — 102,435 bushels

2013 — 77,558,000 bushels

2014 — 131,260,000 bushels

2015 — 103,406,000 bushels

2016 — 111,281,000 bushels

2017 — 41,678,000 bushels

2018 — 72,294,000 bushels

2019 — 65,410,000 bushels

2020 — 70,285,000 bushels

2021 — 44,470,000 bushels

Source: USDA Small Grains annual summaries.