PIERRE, S.D. — South Dakota farmers this year are expected to harvest the fewest acres of winter wheat in nearly half a century.

The Capital Journal (http://bit.ly/2r7EknM ) reported that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s statistics service estimates 780,000 acres of winter wheat will be harvested in July, down 29 percent from the 2016 harvest of 1.1 million acres.

“It was less than I expected,” said Reid Christopherson, head of the South Dakota Wheat Commission.

Reid said many farmers didn’t plant wheat this year because of low prices due to big wheat supplies worldwide. Wheat stocks in the U.S. and abroad remain at near record levels so Christopherson said the market isn’t expected to change soon.

The National Agricultural Statistics Service estimated 900,000 acres of wheat were planted in the fall, but winter weather can damage some crops. Farmers then uproot or spray-kill the damaged crops in order to plant a different crop in its place.

The average per-acre yield is expected to remain high at 56 bushels per acre, only two bushels less than last summer. South Dakota farmers have seen record yields in major crops in recent years as farm management, agronomy and equipment improve.

Total harvest production of winter wheat in the state is expected to be 43.7 million bushels, down 32 percent from last year.

Information from: Pierre Capital Journal, http://www.capjournal.com