Mud mires S.D. farmers' equipment

ABERDEEN, S.D. (AP) -- Sometimes even the rescuers have to be rescued from the swampy ground plaguing northeast South Dakota farmers. "Jell-O wouldn't even be bad, but this was more like pudding," said Guy Hanlon of Hanlon Bros. Construction of V...

ABERDEEN, S.D. (AP) -- Sometimes even the rescuers have to be rescued from the swampy ground plaguing northeast South Dakota farmers.

"Jell-O wouldn't even be bad, but this was more like pudding," said Guy Hanlon of Hanlon Bros. Construction of Verdon.

Hanlon Bros. was called Saturday morning to help pull out a combine that got stuck in a muddy field between Stratford and Ferney. It's a problem farmers have had statewide thanks to nearly ever-present rain and much cooler temperatures this spring and summer.

Tom Paepke said custom harvesters had just finished combining his field on Friday afternoon and were headed out. But then they traveled over land they had already driven over and got stuck. Saturday morning, work on trying to get out the combine resumed.

Hanlon said his brother, Scott, took out an excavator and was able to pull out one side of the combine. But when the excavator moved toward the other side, it too become stuck.


"Excavators have got special tracks on them so they're not supposed to do that," Hanlon said.

In fact, he said, he's never known it to become stuck in the five to six years the firm has been helping combines to solid ground. But the ground is that wet.

"It was just like quicksand," he said.

It took a cable run from a wrecker to the field to get the equipment out of the muck.

That special kind of soggy explains why so much of the corn and soybeans are still in the field as winter nears.

Paepke said that only about 150 of his 500 acres of soybeans have been harvested. His 400 acres of corn haven't been touched, and he's finished for now. He said he can't risk starting again until the ground dries out more or freezes.

"You can't take a chance of that happening again," he said.

Dismal numbers


He's not alone.

About 50 percent of the soybean crop has been harvested, statewide and in several area counties.

Around 95 percent of the bean crop would have been harvested by this time in a normal year, according to state numbers. The corn has barely been touched, several area county Extension educators said.

"I've never seen anything like this," said Paepke, who has farmed for more than 30 years.

Marshall County Extension educator Tyler Melroe heard someone describe the harvest scene: Farmers' four-wheel-drive tractors look like combines' bodyguards.

Getting stuck is just about as much a concern as anything now, he said. It's the wettest he's seen it in his four years with the Extension service in Marshall County.

In fact, his grandfather, who's in his early 80s, has never seen the fields this wet, Melroe said. His family farms just over the North Dakota border in Sargent County.

"I don't think anybody wants to know how much we've had," he said.


The last few days of sunshine have helped substantially, said Mark Rosenberg, Extension educator for Spink, Hand and Beadle counties.

Brown County's bean harvest might not be quite as far along, said Rosenberg, who has been working with Brown County farmers.

Ron Dodds has just recently started the Brown County educator job. He said that producers have been able to make progress in the last few days.

Moisture content

Higher temps have also helped cut moisture content in soybeans, Rosenberg said. Beans should have no more than 15 percent moisture to store, but they have been coming in 20 percent to 30 percent moisture, Rosenberg said. Recently, they have improved to less than 20 percent moisture, he said.

Melroe also has seen drier soybeans lately. The moisture content seems to be affected by the soybean variety, he said. Those that mature earlier dried down extensively, he said.

Corn could use some help too. Statewide, 12 percent of grain corn has been harvested, compared to 55 percent in a normal year.

October was one of the wettest and coldest in history, according to the National Weather Service, with 4.33 inches falling in Aberdeen. That followed September with 4.41 inches, said meteorologist Renee Wise with the National Weather Service in Aberdeen.


Weather outlook

Farmers and crops could get some more relief in the next few days. The weather forecast calls for highs in the mid- to high 50s through Thursday. The first significant chance for precipitation is Monday, Wise said. But, she said, that forecast is still pretty far out.

Because the ground is so saturated, it can't accept any more moisture, she said. Warmer weather should help dry out that land.

And that would be welcome, Melroe said.

"I really hope the sunshine gives them some optimism," he said. "We need all the help we can get."


Information from: Aberdeen American News,

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