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'Head-high' crops in early July

Jared Deinert checks on a corn stalk on his farm he operates with his father Dave Deinert on Thursday, July 5, in Mount Vernon, S.D. Sam Fosness / Forum News Service

MOUNT VERNON, S.D.—When Dave Deinert gazes at his corn crops in early July, he is pleased to see his crops surpass the age-old saying "knee-high by the Fourth of July."

Instead, his corn is taller than he is, with most of July and all of August still ahead.

Deinert has been farming 2,200 acres of corn for roughly 45 years on his farm near Mount Vernon with the help of his son Jared. The two farm roughly 4,000 acres of land, including 1,800 acres of soybeans.

"We are looking at a really good corn crop right now, and we're excited to combine corn looking this good in early July," Deinert said.

Deinert's corn is likely among the best of the best. As of the July 2 U.S. Department of Agriculture corn crop update, South Dakota corn conditions are sitting at 14 percent excellent, 51 percent good, 28 percent fair, and 4 and 3 percent poor and very poor, respectively.

Shortly after planting season in early May, Deinert wasn't exactly optimistic, as he said the soil was fairly dry. Then came the rain. Deinert said the moisture his crops received by late May boosted his confidence for the corn crop, as he watched it grow quickly.

"We started planting our corn on May 3, and it went really well this year," he said. "We were only unable to plant about 2 percent of our corn crops, so we are expecting much better numbers from our corn compared to last year."

According to last year's USDA figures, the state's corn yields were 145 bushels per acre. Given the ideal weather conditions his corn crops have experienced thus far, Deinert said he could be pushing about 185 to 200 bushels of corn per acre this year.

Deinert's corn crops are doing so well, he anticipates an early harvest.

"With how great our corn crops are looking right now, we could be harvesting close to two weeks earlier than we normally do, which is usually about Oct. 1," Deinert said.

Although Deinert is staring at strong corn crops in early July, low commodity prices for corn pose a serious challenge for him and other area corn producers.

In the past 30 days, corn has dropped 70 cents in value, and Deinert expects corn commodity costs to be under $3 this year come harvest time in late September. According to Poet's local cash corn bids, the July corn price is currently at $3.17 per bushel, which may fluctuate below the $3 mark when harvest season approaches.

"With the corn commodity prices being so low, our salvation right now is in the high volume of bushels we are anticipating right now," he said.

The moisture has been just right for Deinert's corn crops this year, but too much of it can create problems. For corn, if standing water sits on the crop past roughly three to four days, the plant is unlikely to survive and be of any worth or yield.

"The adequate moisture we have had this year has been near perfect," said Jared Deinert after he jumps out of his tractor. "We aren't too wet, we're not too dry either, so we're sitting very good."

The Deinert farm also includes 1,800 head of cattle. The Deinerts use high moisture corn to feed the livestock on their farming operation. They harvest high moisture corn earlier than their typical dry corn, which is at a 30 percent moisture level when harvested. The two then grind the wet corn and use it to feed their livestock, which helps them reduce feed costs for their cattle.

With such a large farming operation, Jared and Dave Deinert have a lot of overhead expenses in equipment, fertilizer and seed corn.

"We have a lot of input on such a large farming operation, and I spent $100 dollars an acre in seed corn this year, so that shows you how the large amounts of bushels are a saving grace for our farm," Dave Deinert said.